Rakata, a 19-year-old male Sumatran tiger at Woodland Park Zoo, was humanely euthanized on February 17, 2012. The aged tiger was ailing from kidney failure and liver disease–afflictions familiar to anyone who has ever cared for housecats that have lived well past the age of 12.
The tiger’s appetite and activity level had abruptly waned in early February, prompting staff to conduct a thorough health exam, which verified chronic kidney and liver issues related to ageing.
“Despite supportive care and treatments, the tiger never regained a healthy appetite and euthanasia was the most humane option for this geriatric animal. Age-related changes in the kidney and liver are a common cause of decline in geriatric zoo cats,” noted Woodland Park Zoo’s Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Helmick, in a press release from the zoo.
In the wild, tigers can survive to about age 15. In zoos, they may live from 18 to 20 years.
Rakata left the Toronto Zoo in 1998 to become part of Woodland Park Zoo’s collection. For 11 of his years in Seattle, Rakata shared the tiger exhibit with JoJo, a female Sumatran tiger. Five cubs were born to the pair; the last, a female named Hadiah, was born in 2006 and currently resides at the Phoenix Zoo.
Their offspring are important additions to the tiger gene pool. In the wild, fewer than 4,000 tigers exist due to the ongoing destruction of their habitat, poaching, and pressures and conflict related to human overpopulation in tiger habitat. Sumatran tigers may number as few as 400 in the wild.
JoJo is now the lone tiger at the zoo, but in 2014 another subspecies of tiger will dwell in a new exhibit devoted to showing how humans and wildlife can co-exist in the tropical forests of the world.
The subspecies is the Malayan tiger, which prowls the Malayan Peninsula of Thailand and Malaysia. Only about 500 of these tigers live in the wild. It is about the size of the Sumatran tiger, being slightly smaller than the Indochinese tiger with which it was once classified. (It was identified as a separate subspecies in 2004.)
Funds for the new exhibit, which will also boast sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters, and a variety of tropical birds, are being raised by the zoo’s More Wonder More Wild campaign.
For more information about the world’s six subspecies of tiger, follow the links below:
Amur (Siberian) Tigers
Bengal (Indian) Tigers
South China Tigers