BRASILIA — A lion was reunited with his longtime partner Friday at a Brasilia zoo after becoming so depressed by their separation that he stopped eating, Brazilian media reported.

Dengo the lion was sedated and his journey from Niteroi's ZooNit to a facility in Brasilia began with a herculean effort by eight men to load him out of his cage. He traveled to the Brazilian capital in an Air Force plane, O Globo newspaper said.

The 11-year-old beast and Elza the lioness, 10, shared a cage at the zoo in Niteroi for eight years before being separated. After Elza was transferred, Dengo spent most of his days lying down and lost his appetite.

Dengo will now share an open space with Elza, several other lions and Bengal tigers, officials said.

The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) began to remove animals from ZooNit on Thursday after the facility lost its license to house animals because of non-compliance issues. Some 490 animals are due to be transferred this month.

ZooNit, a non-profit organization supported by the government, "was closed to prevent the uncontrolled entry and exit of animals," IBAMA animal protection chief Lisia Vanacor told local press.

"The space will be reopened if there is another project with the right conditions. In 22 years, the facility did not meet the standards. Dengo, for example, was living in a dark and cramped cage."

Other animals, including toucans, spiders, owls and monkeys, were taken to an IBAMA center in the town of Seropedica.

Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

Photo by Appaloosa (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons