These are the tear-jerking final images of a lioness and her cub locked in a tender embrace – just days before she suddenly passed away.
Four-year-old Asha and her young cub K’wasi were a picture of pure joy during their first public appearance together cuddling up to each other and playing gently as mother and baby would.
The pair were inseparable after becoming the first lioness and cub to go on public exhibit together in Zoo Miami history.
A mother’s love: Four-year-old Asha and her young cub K’wasi give each other a cuddle in Zoo Miami before Asha suddenly died
But Asha, who was born at the Bronx Zoo in New York, USA, was starting to show signs of stiffness and discomfort and staff decided they needed to act to discover what the problem was.
While under anesthesia she suddenly went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.
It has not yet been determined what will happen with the cub but zoo staff said their ultimate goal is to integrate him back into a pride either at the zoo Miami or elsewhere.
A zoo spokesperson said: ‘Following her X-rays and during the exploratory procedure to examine her uterus and other internal organs for any signs of infection Asha’s heart began to race and her breathing became irregular.
The pair were inseparable after becoming the first lioness and cub to go on public exhibit together in Zoo Miami history. But Asha, who was born at the Bronx Zoo in New York, was starting to show signs of discomfort before she died
Playful: The little cub wants to play with its mum but Asha suddenly started to show signs of discomfort and went into cardiac arrest
The young baby cub looks up to its mother after becoming the first lioness and cub to go on public exhibit in Zoo Miami. Sadly Asha died shortly after
While under anesthesia Asha suddenly went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated leaving her cub without a mother
‘Zoo veterinarians tried to stabilize the lioness but were unsuccessful. Asha went into cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated.’
Initial tests did not show any obvious cause for her illness or what had led to her fatal reaction, according to the zoo. Veterinarians are awaiting additional test results.