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Lion at Franklin Park Zoo donates blood to save brother’s life

Because Kamaia (right) and Dinari were littermates, his brother was the perfect donor for this much needed blood transfusion, Zoo New England officials said.Zoo New England

Kamaia, a 14-year-old male lion at Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, underwent successful surgery Friday to remove his spleen and received a life-saving blood transfusion from his brother, according to Zoo New England.

Kamaia had recently been experiencing health issues, including a bout with pneumonia. During an examination last week, veterinarians discovered Kamaia was anemic and had an enlarged spleen, the statement said.

“It was suspected that he had chronic underlying health issues, although comprehensive diagnostic tests had been inconclusive,” the zoo said.

On Thursday, zoo veterinarians collected blood from his brother, Dinari, who is also 14. The blood was tested to see if it was a suitable for a transfusion, the statement said.


Dinari and Kamaia were litter mates and have resided at Franklin Park Zoo since 2015, the statement said.

“Blood transfusions are not often performed in zoological settings because it can [be] difficult to find a suitable donor,” Dr. Chris Bonar, director of animal health for Zoo New England, said in the statement. “Because Kamaia and his brother were littermates, Dinari was the perfect donor for this much needed transfusion.”

The surgery, which lasted about three hours, was necessary to determine the cause of the lion’s health issues. Aside from an enlarged spleen -- which was about two times the normal size -- nothing else abnormal was found in Kamaia. Samples from his spleen have been sent for further testing, the statement said.

Bonar said that the zoo is hopeful that Kamaia will be feeling better very soon.

“This was a major surgery, and we will continue to monitor him closely to ensure that he is comfortable and recovering well,” he said.

John Linehan, president and chief executive of Zoo New England President, also said that the zoo is " touched by the tremendous outpouring of support.”


Kamaia is expected to remain in a private space for a few weeks while his care team closely monitors his recovery.

“The work done over the past two days has been extraordinary, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team,” Linehan said in the statement. “We remain hopeful that Kamaia has a smooth recovery.”

Adam Sennott can be reached at