Zoo Knoxville has a new African lion, Upepo

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Zoo Knoxville has a new 5-year-old African lion. The lion, named Upepo, arrived Thursday via airmail.

Upepo (pronounced ew-PEP-oh), whose name means “wind” in Swahili, came to Knoxville from Wildlife Safari Park in Winston, Oregon, accompanied on the plane by two Zoo Knoxville caregivers.

The 400-pound lion was put in his temporary residence in the zoo’s animal clinic, where he will live for the next month before joining the pride in Valley of the Kings.

Upepo comes to Knoxville on the recommendation of the African Lion Species Survival Plan, a collaborative effort of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to save lions from extinction. Since 1995, half the world’s lion population has been lost due to illegal poaching, habitat loss and loss of prey. Lions occupy only 8% of their historic range today and have been wiped out from 26 countries.

The AZA is working to increase the number of African lions in the wild through public engagement and partnering with those working on the ground in Africa.

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