African lion at Michigan zoo dies after cancer battle

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A furry member of the John Ball Zoo has died after a months-long battle with cancer.

The Grand Rapids zoo announced the death of its 12-year-old African lion, Bakari, Tuesday. 

John Ball Zoo says the lioness was diagnosed with lymphoma at the end of last year. She underwent 15 weeks of chemotherapy and her follow-up exams showed no evidence of cancer. Zoo officials were hopeful for her recovery, as her lymph nodes seemed normal and the mass on her neck was gone.

However, John Ball Zoo says Bakari’s health quickly declined Monday and she passed away. 

While the zoo must still confirm what led to Bakari’s death, zoo officials believe her lymphoma aggressively returned, leading to her unexpected death.

Bakari joined John Ball Zoo in 2008 with her sister, Abena. The zoo said she was a quirky addition who spent her afternoons near the visitor window, interacting with guests. Zoo workers say Bakari was a leader whenever they would bring in enrichment items for the wildlife.

“She will be remembered as a wonderful ambassador for her species, and the impact she made won’t be forgotten,” the zoo stated in a Tuesday news release.

John Ball Zoo says African lions typically live between 10 years and 14 years.

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