The Environment Ministry (MINAE) confirmed that Kivú the lion is successfully recovering at his new home, after being anesthetized to remove him from the Simón Bolívar Zoo in downtown San José on Monday.
MINAE shared the first photos and videos of the 18-year-old lion inside a special enclosure at the Zoo Ave wildlife refuge in Alajuela province on Wednesday.
Upon the lion’s arrival on Monday, experts took blood samples, X-rays and ultrasounds to fully assess the lion’s condition. Kivú is currently inside a containment area where biologists and veterinarians are evaluating his physical condition.
They reported that he woke up normally and so far he has not shown any side effects from the anesthesia.
MINAE indicated in a statement that on Monday evening, after waking up, Kivú drank water and behaved as expected after being under anesthesia.
“Kivú showed a good appetite and ate beef, chicken and innards,” the MINAE report said.
Experts will keep evaluating the lion for a couple of days more before authorizing his relocation to his new enclosure: a 300-square-meter (some 3,300 square feet) area surrounded by nature, with plants, ramps, a pond, a cave and other spaces where he can hide if he wants to. He will no longer be on public display to avoid him stress.
Kivú was born in captivity at La Habana Zoo in Cuba. The zoo donated the cub and his partner Kariba to the Simón Bolívar Zoo in 1999. Kariba died of cancer in 2011. Kivú’s conditions at the zoo were criticized for years, with a crescendo of opposition to his confinement earlier this year when he was visibly ill. Authorities ordered zoo administrators to improve his conditions or relocate him; after the administrators’ continued resistence, authorities entered the zoo Monday and removed Kivú to his new surroundings.
Because Kivú spent so many years at his infamous San José zoo cage, experts are conducting a progressive adaptation process to his new environment.