People have been coming to the Lake Superior Zoo to hear the growl of fan-favorite Leo, Today the Lake Superior Zoo announced the passing of the beloved lion.

Kind of like Alex from Madagascar, when you heard Leo, you could hear him across the whole zoo, demanding you to know that he was there and he was still kind. Leo was 14.5 years old. He grew up here and many children in our community grew up with him.

Assistant Director of Animal Care, Lizzy Larson said in a press release from the Lake Superior Zoo, “I have been Leo’s keeper for 13 years, which was most of his life and most of my zookeeping career. He was a gentle giant and the dominant lion in his sibling group pride. He loved to play with toys and his sisters. My life and the Lake Superior Zoo will forever be changed by Leo.”

The public is invited to visit the zoo this weekend to pay their respects to Leo. People are welcome to visit Lily and Malkia and bring flowers or gifts. There will be a designated spot for a memorial. The Lake Superior Zoo will also have a donation box available at the lion’s habitat where visitors can leave gift cards or monetary donations. All gifts received this way will be used to provide Lily and Malkia with some extra enrichment and love. They will feel the loss of their big brother most of all.

HEIDI BEAL
Heidi Beal Lake Superior Zoo
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The Lake Superior Zoo noticed a week and a half ago that Leo’s behavior was off. He wasn't as active or energetic. He wasn't playing with his sisters. So they looked closer at his condition. It was Tuesday his health dramatically declined and the staff sedated him for a full exam.

Zoo veterinarian, Dr. Beyea, said in the press release “Our laboratory tests and exam findings indicate he suffered from an autoimmune disease.” While deciding what course of action to take, Leo passed in his sleep while Lake Superior Zookeepers were at his side. Beyea will have more information once pathologists at the University of Minnesota get the results from an exam and will know in two weeks.

HEIDI BEAL Lake Superior Zoo
HEIDI BEAL Lake Superior Zoo
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Lions in the wild usually live 10 years, but in human care can live longer, and that is why Leio lived to be the age he did. The Lake Superior Zoo says Leo is survived by his two sisters, Lily and Malkia. The staff was surprised because all three lions had full exams and dental cleanings last summer and all were in great health considering their progressing age.

Chief Executive Officer, Haley Hedstrom said in the press release, “Leo bravely represented his species and I have had the absolute privilege of watching so many people, including my son, connect with him while watching training sessions during special events or while he and his sisters were playing.

That's one thing I noticed going to the zoo, was that all the lions connected with the people visiting, especially kids. Dr. Beayea said that she noticed working with him that he has a "side-eye" that he would give the staff to let them know, HE was in charge.

Lake Superior Zoo
Lake Superior Zoo
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She also said he was a talker and growler to the staff and allowed the staff many personal experiences with him. Hannah Remington, one of his keepers said he was a very expressive animal and felt she had conversations with him.

He brought joy to so many people, he will be missed.

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