Farewell Lazarus

Farewell Lazarus

#Animals, #Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo

Posted on 14th January 2020 by Media Relations

Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are saddened by the passing of African Lion, Lazarus.

In late December 2019, Lazarus’s health deteriorated suddenly and he required immediate veterinary assistance. The Zoo’s veterinary team anaesthetised Lazarus to investigate the cause but sadly it revealed he was in organ failure. Staff then made the heartbreaking decision to put him to sleep.

Lazarus was 17 years old and was considered geriatric. Keepers and the veterinary team had been monitoring Lazarus closely over the past year as he had been showing early signs of kidney disease.   

Lazarus played a key role in the conservation breeding program for his species, siring two litters whilst at Taronga Western Plains Zoo with a total of seven cubs. Throughout his life Lazarus produced 13 descendants in total who have since gone on to have cubs of their own ensuring his genetic line continues to be represented.

Lazarus leaves behind his companion Maya and keepers are ensuring her welfare is paramount. The team are spending more time with her and doing behavioural enrichment. Plans are being made for Maya to be transferred to Taronga Zoo, Sydney in the coming months where she will be paired with another male Lion.

Lazarus was an iconic animal and a much loved resident at the Zoo’s Lion Pride Lands precinct not only with staff but guests as well. He will be sadly missed.

Keepers share their farewell messages

I was fortunate enough to have known Laz for 16 years. I remember meeting him when he was just over a year old when he arrived at Auckland Zoo. While I never worked with him there, I would see him almost every day as I walked past him and his pride to get to my section. He matured into a beautiful male and was very fond of all his keepers here in Dubbo. We would often get a little chuff greeting from him and head rub at the mesh. He had such a gentle soul but never let us forget that he was the king of the Savannah, especially when food was around. He was an amazing dad to all his cubs as they grew up. Watching them play in his beautiful mane was something I will always treasure.

Thank you Laz for allowing me the privilege to work with you these past eight years. What an honour. I will never forget you. 



Lazarus was an incredible Lion. He was the perfect balance between being tough enough that he was instantly respected by everyone who met him, and sweet enough that he was a pleasure to be around. This perfect balance was evident in many parts of his life. Watching him with his own cubs was truly special, because once again this incredibly tough animal was so tolerant of having his mane pulled in every direction, and being bitten repeatedly on the bum, at most a silent snarl to show his displeasure.
I have never seen an animal so regal, be so capable of turning on the puppy eyes when he saw that breakfast had arrived. Imagine puss in boots but with the most magnificent mane.

Lazarus was by far the most stunning Lion I have ever worked with, and thankfully he passed on those genetics many times. He did his species proud, and he will be immensely missed by all who knew him. The fact that I will never again get to see him and Maya greet each other with a tender head rub, is the thing that saddens me most of all. Their bond was such a pleasure to witness.



The first time that I met Laz was when he was introduced to the female Maya. She came from Africa and was chosen as his mate, well did they hit it off, breeding over seventy times a day for three days straight. When the cubs arrived, he was the perfect father letting the cubs play with his tail and chew on his ears only growling occasionally.  They had a second litter and the family situation could not have looked better. The kids moved out leaving Laz and Maya quietly alone. As Laz got older, he may have been a bit slower but he still showed his king of the jungle side occasionally when he did not want to move or do some other thing that I had asked him to do.

I will miss him for a long time to come.  



My fondest memories of Laz was when I was working the round with Bruce. Bruce had worked with Laz at Auckland Zoo and seeing them with each other here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo was very special. Being a mature male lion Laz could be a bit aloof but he would always come and approach Bruce chuffing and head rubbing, he was always happy to see him.



I’ll always remember Lazzy for his friendly greetings each morning before letting him out onto exhibit, it’s almost like we would have a brief conversation of “oof, oof, oof’s”. He was a special Lion, I’ll really miss him.



I met Laz on my first day as a zookeeper.  He was the first Lion I had ever seen close and since that day he secured a special place in my heart.  Such a gentle soul that will be missed.



Laz pretended I didn't exist for the first nine months of working with him. It took lots of milk and special treats to change his mind. Eventually he would chuff and give the occasional head rub when he saw me. Laz was very tolerant of Maya's and his cubs playfulness and said so much with just a look! The look on his face when Maya would tell him off was pricelessly sheepish. RIP Laz, you will be missed.



What an incredible boy to have worked with the last couple of years – it was always a great welcome in the morning when he would greet us with a chuff and rub his head on the mesh.  What a great legacy he leaves behind with all his cubs that he has sired. A perfect gentleman….. Will miss you Mr Laz