'We are all incredibly sad' — Wellington Zoo staff upset over decision to euthanise lioness pair

The care manager in charge of two Wellington Zoo lionesses who were euthanised yesterday has described the difficult and “hard” process of making the decision.

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Djane and Zahra were almost 20 years old and were suffering age-related health concerns. Source: 1 NEWS

Jo Thomas told 1 NEWS the lionesses had been “a big part” of zoo life for almost 20 years.

Djane and Zahra, who were litter sisters, had been closely monitored by animal care and veterinary staff over the past 18 months due to age-related health concerns and "showing signs of slowing down for a while".

However, Djane's health recently deteriorated, with her becoming disinterested in food over the past few days, the zoo said in a statement yesterday.

Thomas said zoo staff were feeling upset over the loss.

“It’s a sad day for all of us here at Wellington Zoo.

“We’ve had nothing but lovely comments and a lot of support for the team. But it’s always hard even though when you know you’re making a right decision for an animal. It’s still always very hard and sad.

Wellington Zoo euthanises lionesses Djane and Zahra — 'The best thing for them'

“You always know in your head and your heart that it’s the right one,” Thomas said.

“The team have done incredible, the whole team caring for Djane and Zahra through this and for their whole life care.

“And the veterinary team here have done incredible work over the last few days for us to try and make a difference.

“We’re doing OK in knowing that we made the right decision but we are all incredibly sad,” Thomas said.

Wellington Zoo was gifted its first lion, a male called King Dick, when it first opened in 1906.

While the zoo will now be without lions for a while, Thomas said they will look to start a new pride of lions in the future.