Two aging, arthritic mountain lions have been retired from exhibit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum - and a mountain lion cub will go on exhibit in their place today.
"The two lions are about 13 years of age, and it was becoming hard for them to get up and down the rather steep slope of the exhibit space," said Craig Ivanyi, executive director of the museum west of Tucson.
"They have an arthritic condition," Ivanyi said of the retired lions. "They will stay at the museum and live out their lives in an off-exhibit retirement space created for them."
The average life expectancy of mountain lions in the wild is about 8 to 13 years, but healthy lions in captivity can live years longer.
The museum's new lion will be unveiled to visitors at noon today.
Museum officials declined to provide information on the young lion's age or where it was obtained until today's announcement.
"Since its inception, mountain lions have been the iconic symbol of the museum," Ivanyi said. "All of the mountains lions that come to the museum are from rescue situations, and this one is no exception."
The two aging lions came to the museum in 1999 as orphans from a wildlife rehabilitation center in Phoenix.
They were removed from public view last month and placed in a retirement area with "comfortable and safe surroundings, where animal keepers can provide them with a variety of enrichment options to keep them psychologically engaged," according to a museum news release.
The new quarters, which aren't open to public viewing, have a resting platform for the lions and include indoor and outdoor areas with cooling and heating systems.
did you know
Mountain lions are the largest cats in the Sonoran Desert. Females weigh about 75 pounds, and males can weigh up to 145 pounds.
Source: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at email@example.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz