Kwanza, beloved Birmingham Zoo African Lion dies after bout with cancer

Touching photo of Kwanza from the Birmingham Zoo Facebook page

Kwanza, a beloved African lion at the Birmingham Zoo, died this week after a courageous fight with cancer.

Below is the Facebook statement from the Zoo about Kwanza’s passing.

Statement from the Birmingham Zoo

.The Zoo’s Veterinary and Animal Care staff had been closely monitoring and medically treating him for age-related health issues including kidney disease and lymphoma. Kwanza initially responded to medical treatment but then his appetite decreased and the difficult decision was made to euthanize him.


“Kwanza was a longtime beloved member of our animal family and always received the best care and attention from our Animal Care and Veterinary teams,” says Birmingham Zoo President & CEO, Chris Pfefferkorn. “His passing is a devastating loss for not only our staff and volunteers but also for our guests and members who loved him. Kwanza will always hold a special place in our hearts and he will be deeply missed.”


The Birmingham Zoo is thankful to our extended Zoo family and the community for your continued support during this time.

About Kwanza – African Lion

Kwanza taking a nap at the Birmingham Zoo in 2019. Photo via Todd Pierce

.Facts about Kwanza from the Birmingham Zoo:

  • Kwanza was born on December 24, 2004, at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas
  • Kwanza arrived at the Birmingham Zoo in February 2006 and lived in the Trails of Africa area of the Zoo. 
  • Kwanza fathered five lion cubs, a large litter for African lions, and a huge contribution towards the conservation of the species. 
  • Kwanza was often seen napping in his habitat with resident female African lion, Akili, and greeting guests at the Zoo’s Predator Zone
  • Kwanza served as an ambassador for his species, inspiring people to learn more about the conservation of African lions in the wild

We will miss this gentle giant.

Rest in Peace Kwanza.

Did you ever see Kwanza at the Birmingham Zoo? Please share with you photos on social media at @bhamnow

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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