Hope Zoo's lion put to sleep

Observer Reporter

Wednesday, March 15, 2006    

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FOR more than two decades, Scrappy has been greeting visitors to the Hope Zoo in Kingston with his powerful roar.

However, on February 24 that haunting sound that rumbled so freely from the bowels of the African lion was silenced forever.

He was put to sleep, after battling with a spinal disorder that caused a progressive loss of nerve function to his hind legs.

Scrappy, who has been an icon of the zoo for some 23 years, officials said, was progressing towards paralysis and could no longer support himself.

His handlers at the Hope Zoo believe that his last days were comfortable and as his Animal Keeper, Gary, recounts: ''Scrappy was like a friend and the most interesting part of my job as a keeper. Scrappy has left an empty space that can't be filled even with the acquisition of a new lion; Scrappy is gone but not forgotten''.

The lion's trainer always found him eager to please, and noted that even at the end the animal tried to find the strength to work. "This was a truly remarkable animal that I had the opportunity to work with in my time; a real brave-heart," Gary added.

Fortunately, Scrappy was able to leave a legacy in his sole surviving offspring, Ruff, who is now in his 20th year. Ruff represents the last of the line of Hope Zoo captive-bred lions.

But even while Scrappy's death marks the passing of an era, the administrators of Hope Zoo said they are looking to the future and the implementation of plans to upgrade the zoo.

According to Executive Director Karl Binger, "Our approach now is to ensure that improved infrastructure and adequate support services are in place to facilitate the next new arrivals at the zoo. Although this task is not an easy one, we believe that, with the combined help of the wider community in terms of professional expertise, financial donations and time, the targets are achievable and well worth the effort," Binger said in a statement to the press.




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