Knoxville, Tenn. (July 17, 2020) – Zoo Knoxville got a special delivery via air mail yesterday.  Upepo, a five-year-old male African lion, arrived safely to his new home in Tennessee on Thursday evening.

Upepo (pronounced ew-PEP-oh), whose name means “wind” in Swahili, travelled to Knoxville from Wildlife Safari park in Winston, Oregon, accompanied on the plane by two Zoo Knoxville caregivers.  The 400-pound lion was a very good flyer and handled the trip calmly.  Upon arrival in Knoxville, he moved in to his temporary residence in the zoo’s animal clinic, where he will live for the next month before joining the pride in Valley of the Kings.

Upepo comes to Knoxville on the recommendation of the African Lion Species Survival Plan, a collaborative effort of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to save lions from extinction.  Since 1995, half the world’s lion population has been lost due to illegal poaching, habitat loss and loss of prey.  Lions occupy only 8% of their historic range today and have been wiped out from 26 countries.  The AZA is working to increase the number of African lions in the wild through public engagement and partnering with those working on the ground in Africa. 

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville is Knoxville’s largest attraction and features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. The zoo is open daily with special summer hours through Labor Day.  For more information visit