Published: 14:00, 10 May 2016
| Updated: 14:38, 10 May 2016
Keepers and staff at a Kent wildlife park are in mourning after the death of one of their lions.
Samira, a Barbary lioness from Port Lympne, died today aged 12.
She became a bit of a celebrity and a popular animal for keepers and visitors after she suffered a crippling disability just days after she was born.
She was born at the park near Hythe but when she was just a few days old, rather than picking her up by the scruff of the neck one of her parents picked her up by the leg.
Samira suffered a bite wound above her shoulder which damaged her right front leg and compressed her spine.
It meant she was unable to walk properly and in order to treat the wound, Samira was raised by hand by keeper Pete Thompson.
As part of the treatment to improve the strength in her leg she received hydrotherapy sessions and was even seen by one of David Beckham’s physiotherapists who gave the lion electrotherapy treatment.
Despite her injury and always walking with a limp she went on to have cubs of her own and supported the park’s breeding programme.
A statement from Port Lympne said: “Samira was a favourite with visitors and staff alike. She would limp over to the fence and collapse in a heap rolling onto her back to draw a crowd of concerned visitors.
“Then as a keeper approached to reassure the public Samira would get up and run off. She was a real drama queen who loved to interact with the public.”
But over the past couple of winters, her mobility and arthritis has become worse and her recovery in the spring declining on previous years.
The park’s statement added: “From the beginning we did not expect her to live as long as a healthy lion. Our team of vets have been monitoring Samira’s condition and treating her.
“This spring Samira did not bounce back and her condition continued to worsen. She needed stronger, constant pain relief.
"Her movement became severely compromised and we could not provide her with an acceptable quality of life.
“Following discussions with the trustees, animal department and vet team we made the difficult decision to euthanise Samira. This was considered to be the most necessary and humane course of action.”
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