ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Workers at the Como Zoo say they are in the midst of a time of grief. A week ago, the zoo lost 22-year-old Wynona.
The lioness was the second oldest in captivity on the continent. She was euthanized after health problems from age.
“It’s very difficult for all of us who were close to Wynona,” said Lynette Palmgren, who volunteered with Wynona for more than 13 years
Last Tuesday, Wynona’s life ended. She came to the St. Paul zoo at 6 months old from Omaha. She mothered dozens of cubs with her mate, Garth, who passed away a few years back.
Palmgren says Wynona was a leader.
“She was beautiful, and she just had this majestic dignity about her,” Palmgren said.
Zoo keeper Allison Jungheim was on her care team for more than a decade. She says that Wynona ate a beef-based diet and was playful.
“She liked scents, she loved cardboard, she would rip cardboard to shreds and just have a blast with it,” Jungheim said.
After the Wynona’s death, things at the zoo have been different.
“Wynona’s been part of our lives for so long that it was a bigger blow for us,” Jungheim said.
Two more reasons why Wynona’s legacy is being felt is that her cubs, Mufasa and Savannah, are still on display at the zoo in her old space.
And according to staff, the now adult lions haven’t acted the same since Wynona died.
Mufasa’s been pacing the floor that his mother used to stand on and his roars have been few and far between.
“They’re a little unsure about everything, so I think they know something went on,” Jungheim said.
And they knew that something was coming, Jungheim said. Wynona had lived 7 years longer than most.
Still, it hurt the staff to lose their lioness.
“She had many people who loved and took care of her and will miss her,” Palmgren said. “She was our Nona.”