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Remembering Blank Park Zoo's Cha Cha the lion
Cha Cha, the Blank Park Zoo’s male lion, passed away from inoperable liver cancer yesterday. He was humanely euthanized because his quality of life continued to decline. He was 16 years old, which is a long life for a lion. In the wild, male lions typically live 12 years.
Photo by Sara Jane Thomas
As Blank Park Zoo mourns the loss of Cha Cha, we are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our members, donors and guests as you share your stories, photos and videos with us.
Photo by Sarah Lepert
A snapshot of your comments and posts on our Facebook page:
“I always loved how regally he’d lay there and watch us all making animals of ourselves at Zoo Brew in the summer…He was beautiful.” - Sandy Hildestad
“We saw Cha Cha the day of the sea lion exhibit opening. I am so glad that I took the time to see him…he came right up to the glass and said hello. I will cherish that moment forever.” - Wendy Lea Thornley
My kids and I just saw him a little over a week ago. He was up close and very happily basking in the sun, and that is how we will remember him.” – Ann Morelock
“Cha Cha was a favorite of mine…When I left the Zoo’s board of directors I received his paw prints in a beautifully framed piece for hanging on my wall. It held a very special place in my heart and is even more meaningful now. RIP Cha Cha and thank you to the awesome team at Blank Park Zoo for all you do.” – Teri Wood TeBockhorst
I am a small animal veterinarian practicing in Adel, Iowa. I do dental exams on dogs and cats multiple times a week, but the very first dental exam I ever performed was on Cha Cha the lion back when I was in vet school. It was an honor to work on such a majestic beast. – Scott Beeman
We’d love to hear more of your stories – leave them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Photo by Tina Gray
Cha Cha was born in 1996 and came to Blank Park Zoo in 1999 when the Zoo opened the Tom & Jo Ghrist Great Cats exhibit.
In 2006, Cha Cha was one of the lions that the Chicago Field Museum studied to help determine that thicker manes in male lions played a role in sexual attraction in female lions. Lions that live in northern zoos tend to have thicker manes because of the colder climate. As a result, zoo officials proclaimed Cha Cha ‘one of the sexiest males alive.’
The search will begin for another male lion to come to Blank Park Zoo; however this is a complicated process that will take time. According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, wild lion populations are down significantly, only 30,000 remain.
If you would like to give a donation in memory of Cha Cha, you can do so to the Blank Park Zoo Foundation.