Most Zoo Cats Only Live to 10 or 12 Years of Age

Cha Cha, a 16-year-old male lion at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, has died, the zoo announced Wednesday in a news release.


According to the Press Release:


Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo announced today the passing of the male lion Cha Cha. The lion was diagnosed this week with inoperable liver cancer and was humanely euthanized because his quality of life continued to decline. He was 16 years old.


“He brought a piece of the wild to Des Moines that we all could admire,” said Bonnie VanEllen, animal keeper. “He enjoyed entertaining those who admired him through training demonstrations.”


“Cha Cha was one of the most visible animals at Blank Park Zoo and was an ambassador to show the public about the need for conservation of all animals,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO of Blank Park Zoo.


According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, wild lion populations are down significantly; only 30,000 remain. In the wild, male lions typically live 12 years.


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.


Memorial contributions can be made to Blank Park Zoo Foundation at The Zoo is also asking the public to share their favorite stories, pictures and videos of Cha Cha on its Facebook page at


Blank Park Zoo wishes to thank Loving Rest Pet Cemetery for their cremation services.

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