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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Cameroon mourns presidential lion
President of Cameroon
People see the lion's death a bad omen for President Biya
Cameroon's wildlife minister has encouraged people to pay their last respects to the country's most famous lion, named Paul after the president.

The lion died in Mvog Beti zoo in the capital, Yaounde, on Saturday.

Wildlife Minister Elvis Ngolle Ngolle said Paul's body has been preserved and the public is now able to visit it.

A BBC correspondent says people see the death as a bad omen for President Paul Biya whose party is seeking to extend his time in office beyond 2011.

This week, parliament began debating a bill to amend the constitution.

The president is elected for seven years and, following a 1996 amendment, can only serve two terms.

Mr Biya has ruled Cameroon for 24 years and will be about 78 when his current term expires in 2011.

Castration

The BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in Yaounde says Paul and his mate were named Paul and Chantal after the presidential couple.

Chantel
Chantel has been Paul's partner for a long time

Last Thursday, Mr Ngole Ngole gave the zoo a cash donation for the treatment of the sick lion.

But despite these efforts the lion died two days later from kidney problems.

The minister said his illness is thought to be related to the lion's earlier castration.

That operation was performed after a lioness he mated with gave birth to deformed cubs, the minister said.




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