Necropsy results have determined that the cause of death for the African lion, Sahar, to be due to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) caused by a fungal infection.
According to the zoo, the infection, which caused lesions in both the brain and a lung, were not detectable by routine examination or by the standard clinical tests which were done. Outward signs of any illness were not seen until the day prior to his death. The fungus is considered to be non-contagious.
Sahar was born on January 27, 2010 at the Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society and moved to Lincoln Park Zoo in February 2012. Arriving at 2 years of age, Sahar had become an icon at Lincoln Park Zoo along with his fellow pride members, Kamali and Zalika, 5-year-old female littermates.
Sahar and Kamali were donated to Rolling Hills Zoo by Lincoln Park Zoo as part of the African Lion Species Survival Plan, a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, while Zalika is on loan to Rolling Hills Zoo from the San Diego Zoo. The donation and move was done in preparation for Lincoln Park Zoo’s renovation of their landmark lion house.
During his residency at Rolling Hills Zoo, Sahar could be seen out in the lion exhibit watching over the pride as well as visitors from a high spot on the rocks, lounging under the shade structure or napping in the yard. Typically, Zalika – his favorite, would be by his side wherever he was in the yard and Kamali would be nearby.