The San Francisco Zoo community is mourning the loss of Sukari, the zoo's 20-year-old African lioness who had given birth to multiple cubs in captivity as part of a conservation program.
The zoo made the announcement on social media Thursday.
"We are heartbroken to share that beloved African lioness, Sukari, passed away at the age of 20. Sukari, which means 'sugar' in Swahili, was stoic in nature however once you got to know her, she would melt your heart," the SF Zoo said on Instagram and Twitter. "Sukari loved horse shanks, pork loin and goat's milk and loved to play soccer with her indestructible boomer balls, playing in the habitat’s moated area and slamming the balls against the walls. She was an incredible ambassador who helped educate our guests on the importance of lion conservation and her legacy will live on here at #SFZoo with son, Jasiri. She will be missed."
Sukari gave birth to Jasiri in 2015, and he soon became part of the lion exhibit alongside his mom and dad, Jahari. Jahari, a beloved lion of guests, staff, and social media, died at the zoo at age 16 in 2019.
Below is a photo from December 2020 showing Sukari and son Jasiri basking in the sun over Christmas week.
Both Sukari and Jahari contributed to the genetic diversity of the global lion population via the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ African Lion Species Survival Plan. Under the program, Sukari also birthed two cubs, M’Fisha and Ahadi, at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha.
In total, as of the time of Jasiri's birth, only 25 cubs had been born in captivity since 1960, as the Chronicle reported.
Top image: Jasiri and Sukari in August 2020. Photo: SF Zoo/Twitter