Raja died after pro-long illness at 4:30-4:45am on Friday morning. He had reached the highest life expectancy for Asiatic lions and his death came as a shook for his caretakers and animal lovers who will miss his roar from now onwards. He was brought to Nandan Van from a circus in 1996 when he was 6 plus years of age.
"Raja's last movement was spotted on Thursday night when he changed his place in his cage. The guard saw him dead during wee hours in the morning. The zoo's oldest occupant's rites was attended by the entire staff. His body was garlanded by roses and cremated," informed Jai Kishore Jadiya, senior vet at Nandan Van zoo.
Raja remained in Nandan Van for two decades and was one of the favourite animals of the zoo staff and visitors. The lion was sick since long and some modifications his in diet were done to keep him in good shape.
"Because of his age, there are digestive disturbances and arthritis troubles that we have taken care of regularly. He was not having food so we gave him chicken last night but he didn't eat that too. The post-mortem also revealed that Raja's vital organs had failed due to illness. He was the only animal to have spent two decades in the zoo," said Jadiya adding that Raja was the oldest lion in Central India.
"India's oldest lion was Raja who lived till 30 years in rescue centre in Bandhavgarh. Another lion named Badshah too lived till 28 years in Jaipur zoo and died in 2014,"said Akansha Chaudhary, deputy conservator forest and wildlife Jaipur.
Known for his roar and frequent appearances out of cage, Raja was one of the eight lions in Nandan Van zoo. Presently, the zoo is home of seven lions, four males and three females.
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"Unlike tigers and lions, he had the tendency of appearing before the visitors. He was favourite among the caretakers also as he had never made any attempt to hit anyone," said a zoo staff.
The average life span of a feline bred in captivity rarely exceeds 18 to 20 years and in the wild it is between 12 to 16 years.