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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Cinema lion dying of cancer
Michael Hackenberger (l) and Bongo the Lion (r)
Bongo the lion has only months left to live
Canada's most famous lion has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, according to his trainer.

The 14-year-old male lion, called Bongo, was born in the Canadian Maritimes and is now in peaceful retirement at Bowmanville Zoo near Toronto.

He has done more work than any other lion and, in fact, more than any Canadian actor or actress

Michael Hackenberger
Bongo's trainer
He is unlikely to live past November, his trainer Michael Hackenberger said.

Bongo has appeared in more than 100 films, television programmes and advertisements, with some of his film roles worth hundreds of thousand of dollars, said Mr Hackenberger.


Bongo had a significant role as a man-eating lion in The Ghost and The Darkness with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. He enjoyed long walks with Cindy Crawford on the South African set of the film.

He also appeared alongside Brendan Fraser in George of The Jungle.

Bongo the lion (l) and Michael Hackenberger (r)
Bongo pretends to roar - sound was usually dubbed in later (courtesy of Bowmanville zoo)
"He is one of the most significant movie lions of all time. He has done more work than any other lion and, in fact, more than any Canadian actor or actress," said Mr Hackenberger.

"Right now, he is the only lion in the world that is trained to make an attack, so he'll jump up and knock you down," the trainer added.

Mr Hackenberger started training Bongo as a seven-month-old cub, giving him an excellent temperament.

Wild lions in the wild are temperamental and can kill on instinct.

"Beyond being my bread and my butter, he's also my friend. What upsets me more is that I am losing an animal who I spent a lot of time with," Mr Hackenberger said.

The Bowmanville Zoo is a home for trained animals with "careers" in films and television.

Its most recent star is Baghera, the black jaguar from Peter Benchley's Amazon.

It also has a number of camels from Antonio Banderas's The Thirteenth Warrior.

Limba, the female Asian elephant, was the star guest at the premiere of Jodie Foster's The King and I. She is also at the zoo.

See also:

21 Feb 01 | Media reports
Russia's lion queen dies
05 Nov 00 | Media reports
'Extinct' lions surface in Siberia
08 Dec 99 | Africa
Lions trap escaped convicts
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