Lincoln Park Zoo Lion Cub Undergoes First of its Kind Surgery

Lincoln Park Zoo Lion Cub Undergoes First of its Kind Surgery

Lomelok, a 1-year-old lion cub, underwent surgery to address a herniated disc.

Chicago (March 7, 2024) On Tuesday, March 5, Lomelok, a one-year-old African lion cub at Lincoln Park Zoo, underwent spinal surgery to address a herniated (or slipped) disc. The successful procedure, completed in partnership with MedVet at their Chicago facility, is the start of a long recovery process for the cub.

When Lomelok began to walk at a few weeks of age in early 2023, the animal care team observed mobility issues and the cub had radiographs taken. In May 2023, the condition progressed and Lomelok underwent his first procedure at MedVet Chicago where he was diagnosed with a narrowing of the channels that carry nerves from the spine out to his legs, also known as stenosis. Veterinarians prescribed anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications while the care team continued to monitor the cub. His slipped disc, located in the same part of the spine as the stenosis, was observed during an MRI after he showed signs of increased mobility issues and lethargy this February.

While this week’s surgery was not intended directly to treat Lomelok’s stenosis, some of the pressure on the nerves leaving his spinal cord may be relieved by removing the damaged disc material.

“It truly took a massive collaboration to complete this procedure, and we’re grateful to MedVet Chicago for collaborating with us on it,” said Dr. Lester E. Fisher Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Kathryn Gamble. “Surgery was as successful as we could have hoped and now we turn our focus to the long road to recovery ahead of Lomelok.”

The lion cub is recovering behind the scenes at Pepper Family Wildlife Center and will not be visible to the public for the foreseeable future. During this time, Lomelok and the rest of the pride will be able to see and smell each other but will not have contact as he recovers. Lomelok’s care team will be looking for him to reach many milestones, including eating his first meal, fully using his legs post-surgery for the first time, and taking his first steps.

“We’re so proud of our dedicated team of animal care experts who have shepherded Lomelok throughout this entire process,” said Cassandra Kutilek, Curator of Large Mammals and Carnivores. “With sleeping bags and extra coffee in tow, the care team is observing Lomelok 24/7 to ensure he is comfortable and surpassing milestones.”

Guests who are inspired by Lomelok’s story and his dedicated care team are encouraged to donate to Lincoln Park Zoo. All gifts to the zoo not only help provide support for the lion cub during his recovery, but for all the animals in the care of Lincoln Park Zoo. Gifts are welcome at

For more information about Lomelok and his journey, follow Lincoln Park Zoo on social media @lincolnparkzoo or the blog here.

About Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at

Media Contacts

Jillian Braun

Lincoln Park Zoo

Anna Cieslik

Lincoln Park Zoo

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