Lion's death ends long-time zoo legacy


Celesto was the last of a lion legacy that began in June of 1989 with the arrival at the Zoo of Bruno and Kili, Celesto's mother and father, and Lindi. The three lions had been seized by sheriff's deputies and federal authorities executing a search warrant for illegal drugs on a Kansas farm on October 31, 1988.

Bruno, Kili, and Lindi arrived at the Houston Zoo in June 1989 on loan from the Franklin County, Kansas sheriff's department by way of Topeka Zoological Park. Celesto was born at the Houston Zoo on June 1, 1990.

Every keeper who worked with Celesto over the years agreed she was feisty, stubborn, strong willed, tenacious with a fascinating personality. The dynamics of the social structure of the zoo's lion pride was important to her and she made it clear to everyone who cared for her that her presence was going to be respected if they were going to work with her in that group of lions.

Over the past two years, the zoo's carnivore keepers and zoo veterinarians monitoring Celesto's health had recorded a marked decline in her kidney function, a condition that is not uncommon in African lions of Celesto's advanced age. Lions in zoos generally live into their late teens but have a much shorter life expectancy in the wild.

Despite a continuing veterinary regimen and the compassionate care and attention of her keepers Celesto's quality of life continued to decline and the grande dame of the Houston Zoo's lion pride was humanely euthanized late Friday morning.

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