Zoo Miami lioness dies during procedure to treat mysterious illness

Zoo Miami's beloved 4-year old lioness, Asha, has died.

According to an announcement issued by the Zoo Friday, Asha died suddenly Thursday afternoon during a procedure to examine her after she had shown signs of severe stiffness and discomfort in the days leading up to her death.

It is the third death in the pride since October.

Earlier in the week, Asha had exhibited difficulties when trying to move and appeared to be in pain, according to the statement. In addition, she had a vaginal discharge, which raised concerns of an internal infection, and showed signs of depression.

In order to determine the cause of Asha's troubles and treat her effectively, the lioness was put under anesthesia, according to zoo officials.

"Following her X-rays and during the exploratory procedure to examine her uterus and other internal organs for any signs of infection, Asha's heart began to race and her breathing became irregular," the statement read.

Zoo veterinarians tried to stabilize the lioness but were unsuccessful.

Asha went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.

A necropsy did not show any obvious cause for her illness or what had led to her fatal reaction, according to the zoo. Zoo veterinarians are awaiting additional test results.

The lioness, which was born in the Bronx Zoo in New York, arrived at Zoo Miami in September 2011 by way of the Colorado Springs Zoo along with her sister, Kashifa. Asha leaves behind a 3 1/2 month old cub named K'wasi -- the first lion cub in the zoo's history to be successfully exhibited with its mother.

It has not yet been determined what will happen with the cub, but the ultimate goal is to integrate it back into a pride at Zoo Miami or elsewhere, according to the statement.

The lioness' death comes only a few months after two lion cubs belonging to Asha’s sister, Kashifa, died -- one in October after Kashifa neglected the cub and another one which went into cardiac arrest in November. An Asian elephant also died at the zoo in late November.

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