Akili was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. She was brought to Birmingham in August 2007 as part of a nationally-accredited species survival plan. She joined Kwanzaa, a male who had resided in the zoo's Predator Building since February 2006. On May 25, 2011, Akili gave birth to five lion cubs fathered by Kwanzaa: Asha, Baron, Kimba, Lily, and Vulcan.
Akili and Kwanzaa later took over an exhibit which had formerly housed the Malayan tiger Kumar. In September 2021 both lions displayed loss of appetite and sneezing symptoms. Fecal testing confirmed they had been infected by SARS-CoV-2. By the time the results were returned, their symptoms had improved.
Kwanzaa died in November 2021 from complications of lymphoma.
- Thornton, William (August 22, 2011) "Birmingham Zoo's royal pride: Feisty young lions to meet Labor Day visitors." The Birmingham News
- "Birmingham Zoo's African lions test positive for COVID after showing symptoms." (October 1, 2021) WVTM13.com
- "The Birmingham Zoo’s African lioness, Akili, dies following introduction to new lion" (July 19, 2022) WBRC.com
- Gann, Heather (July 21, 2022) "Birmingham Zoo lioness Akili mourned: What are plans for Josh, the lion who killed her?" The Birmingham News