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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

Phoenix Zoo euthanizes 22-year-old lion due to spine issues

They say the lion named Cookie had severe, chronic, progressive, irreversible and degenerative changes in her vertebrae and spinal cord.
Credit: Phoenix Zoo

PHOENIX — Phoenix Zoo officials say a 22-year-old female African lion has been euthanized after she developed irreversible spine issues.

They say the lion named Cookie had severe, chronic, progressive, irreversible and degenerative changes in her vertebrae and spinal cord.

That led to significant hind limb muscle loss and weakness affecting her mobility and quality of life for several months before being euthanized on Tuesday.

“Cookie was a strong lioness who demanded respect,” said Heather Vetter, Cookie's primary keeper. “Very discerning when it came to the company she would keep, you could count on one paw the number of keepers she immediately took a shine to.”

According to the zoo, Cookie was born in 1998 along with a male lion cub named Sheik to a private owner.

Police were alerted to abuse happening after the lions were placed in confined spaces, showcased around fairs as entertainment, and the two developing a calcium deficiency, according to the zoo.

Both Cookie and Sheik were taken by police, and Cookie was exhibited at the Pittsburgh Zoo for several years before finding a permanent home at the Phoenix Zoo in 2005 where she entertained countless visitors.

Zookeepers say Cookie loved fresh catnip, playing with papier-mache balls, hunting ducks that landed in her enclosure and lying in the warm sun.

Cookie survived well over the average lifespan of African lions, which is less than 17 years.

See more of Cookie below: