Photographers' Blog

Farewell to Fafá

August 13, 2012

By Ueslei Marcelino

Once upon a time, there was Fafá.

A brave lioness, wild by nature, strong and imposing, Fafá was born and raised in the Brasilia Zoo, and she was undoubtedly one of its biggest attractions.

The star’s last show, however, was a most unusual scene, inside a CAT scanner. Fafá, nearly 18 years old, had stopped eating, had bleeding nostrils, and suffered seizures, and everyone who cared for her at the zoo became concerned.

A complex plan was orchestrated by the zoo to take the lioness to a veterinary clinic. After a heavy dose of sedatives, she was moved from her cage to a litter and transported to the clinic.

There were three harrowing hours of scans in the middle of which Fafá suffered cardiac arrest. They scanned her head, thorax and abdomen, and did a rhinoscopy.

 

When veterinarian John Ricardo Nardotto announced the discovery of tumors in the lioness’ liver, the discouragement of the medical team became obvious. The tumors meant a high risk of death, for Fafá had cancer of the uterus in 2010 and everything led to believe that these tumors could be a metastasis of that.

Even though some tests would only be ready after a few days, the calculated cost of treatment was already at around $7,000 per month. Fafá was returned to the Zoo in the hope that she would improve.

I followed the process closely and had the opportunity to talk with Robson de Souza Almeida, Fafá’s handler for more than six years.

“I want to see her eating, running, playing and watching me when I call her name,”  said Robson.

Unfortunately Robson’s will was not the end of this story. The bleeding did not stop and a new cardiac arrest brought on biologists, keepers and veterinarians to try to save her. After some 24 hours of work, Fafá died.

I returned to the zoo and went to the area where the lioness spent most of her time. I saw her partner and blood brother, the lion named Dudu, completely desolate, sad and alone. I took some pictures and left.

On my way out I saw Robson and went to pay my condolences. His eyes were full of tears, and he was very emotional as he said, “It’s as if I had lost a brother.”

 

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