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John Ball Zoo euthanizes male lion due to progressive neurological issues

Posted at 10:13 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 10:13:51-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo’s 16-year-old male lion, Docha, has died.

His care team decided to humanely euthanize him due to progressive neurological issues, along with his declining health and quality of life, according to a news release.

“Many have a real connection to Docha and he will be greatly missed,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo. “He brought joy to many, and created real connections between people and wildlife that have advanced our mission, but most of all, he had a big personality that brought delight to literally millions of people.”

Docha has had several health issues over the past 10 to 12 years after developing epilepsy.

Observations by the zoo’s veterinarian and a veterinary neurologist led them to believe he had a lesion on the left side of his brain.

Confirming this diagnosis would have required Docha to be taken off-site for an MRI.

Because of his age, health and the inability to treat the lesion, veterinarians decided to instead begin close monitoring and try to alter Docha’s medications.

In recent days, the zoo noticed a “drastic” change in Docha’s balance, stability and simple motor functions.

“Docha’s story is a great example of the advancement of zoo medicine and how we can use medical technology and the expertise of veterinary specialists to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said Dr. Ryan Colburn, the zoo’s veterinarian.