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Tributes to 'strong-willed, caring and protective' lion

Staff and volunteers at Paignton Zoo say they're "extremely saddened" after the death of a much-loved lion.

Asiatic lion Maliya, 6, tested positive for TB and had to be put to sleep.

The zoo also had to put her mother down - for the same reason - back in July.

Maliya was born in Paignon in 2012 and went on to become a mother herself.

Senior keeper Helen Neighbour paid tribute to Maliya saying: "She was the first cub born here that I ever worked with. 

"She grew up into a loving mother, brilliant with her cubs, very caring and very protective. 

"She could be strong-willed and she liked to have the last word!"

Zoo spokesman Phil Knowling added: "We've done everything we can to be sure. Our in-house vets have spoken to the leading expert on felines and Tb, someone who even helped develop one of the tests used. 

"Maliya was found to be highly positive on two tests for the Mycobacterium complex group and the gamma interferon results point towards bovine Tb.

"Whatever else happens before we eventually get the all clear and the Tb restrictions on the Zoo are lifted, we knew we couldn’t keep her alive, so - for the sake of her family and the larger collection - we had to take the decision, as heart-breaking as it was.

"This is also a blow for the European Endangered species Programme for the Asiatic lion.

"Maliya was born at Paignton Zoo in 2012 to mother Indu and father Mwamba and became a mother herself in 2016. Paignton Zoo’s pride of rare Asiatic lions now consists of Maliya’s two cubs, male Yali and his sister Arya, along with father Lucifer. 

"There is some good news for the Zoo; an initial blood test on adult male giraffe Yoda, who died suddenly in November, has come back negative for bovine Tb. 

"More test results are expected in due course.

"TB is a complicated disease which comes in many forms, is hard to detect and harder to confirm. 

"Paignton Zoo has a strict disease monitoring programme and preventative health system in place to minimize the risk of any infectious disease spreading through the collection. 

"The charity zoo continues to take guidance from government agencies." 

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