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Oklahoma City Zoo officials find answers after lioness grows mane

OKLAHOMA CITY - New clues are coming to light in a "mane mystery."

It's a story News 4 reported in February: a lioness at the Oklahoma City Zoo - growing a "mini mane."

Since then, it's gone viral not just in the U.S. but across the globe.

"We've had sort of the curious case of Bridget's mane," said director of Veterinary Services Jennifer D'Agostino.

However, now zoo officials think they've found some answers.

The zoo's veterinary team did some behavioral training with Bridget while trying to figure out what's going on.

"She actually now allows us to handle her tail, and we can get a blood sample from a vein in her tail," D'Agostino said.

They sent the sample to a lab that checks different hormone levels because they felt there was probably an issue with her hormones.

They also took a sample from her sister, Tia, and sent it in for comparison.

The results were surprising; they both had nearly identical testosterone levels.

The difference? Bridget has an abnormal elevation of two different values, cortisol and androstenedione.

"The androstenedione is actually a testosterone precursor, so that hormone will eventually turn into testosterone and that elevation was quite a bit higher than her sister as well," D'Agostino said.

So, what they believe now is a small benign tumor has developed in Bridget's adrenal glands - secreting some of the extra hormones and resulting in a bit of a mini mane.

Zoo staff said the attention Bridget's new 'do has gotten has helped raise awareness for conservation efforts at a time lions need it most due to a diminishing habitat and hunting.

"I know Bridget would be pleased to help her counterparts in the wild by teaching people about lions," D'Agostino said.

Zoo staff said lions typically live to their early 20s and, for an 18-year-old lion, Bridget is in excellent health.

And, despite a little extra fur and media attention, this won't affect her overall quality of life.

This is rare but, since sharing Bridget's story, other zoos and observers of lions in the wild have reached out saying they've seen similar things happen.
D'Agostino said this also appears to be something that happens to older animals.

Bridget's mane isn't expected to grow, but only time will tell.