Ariel, a paralyzed male lion whose fight to walk again became the focus of an Internet fundraising campaign and captured wide media attention in Brazil, died yesterday. On the lion's Facebook page, owner Raquel Borges wrote, "Our beloved Ariel is gone. This is the saddest day of my life." The Facebook page created by Borges was "liked" by more than 62,500 people. The lion's death made headlines on Brazil's biggest news portals and was a top worldwide trending item on Twitter.
The 3-year-old, 310-pound lion started limping one day last year after spending hours leaping and chasing balloons. Shortly afterward, Ariel's two hind legs stopped working. Then, after surgery to remove a herniated disc, the lion was unable to move its front legs. Ariel's veterinarian said the lion's symptoms were similar to those of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause paralysis. Results of tests that a team of Israeli veterinary neurologists administered weren't expected until the end of July. "He was a perfectly normal and docile lion that slept with me until he was 10 months old," Borges said.