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Woodland Park Zoo - Press Release


February 17, 2012

Zoo loses its only male tiger 

Gigi Allianic, Rebecca Whitham
206.548.2550 |

  Photo credit: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

A 19-year-old male Sumatran tiger at Woodland Park Zoo, named Rakata, was euthanized today following a period of physical decline and age-related kidney failure and liver disease. Shown in photo, Rakata sired five cubs with his mate, JoJo

SEATTLE ‒ A 19-year-old male Sumatran tiger at Woodland Park Zoo, named Rakata

(RAH-kah-tah), was euthanized today following a period of physical decline and age-related kidney failure and liver disease.

The life expectancy of Sumatran tigers is 18 to 20 years in zoos and 15 years in the wild.

A comprehensive health examination was performed on the elderly tiger in early February after zookeepers noticed a sharp decline in his activity level and appetite. Ongoing kidney and liver decline were confirmed and no other potential health concerns were identified. “Despite supportive care and treatments, the tiger never regained a healthy appetite and euthanasia was the most humane option for this geriatric animal,” explained Woodland Park Zoo’s Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Kelly Helmick. "Age-related changes in the kidney and liver are a common cause of decline in geriatric zoo cats.”

A necropsy (animal autopsy) performed at the zoo also showed extensive stomach and intestinal wall thickening and an unexpected hernia involving the diaphragm. “The hernia was most likely congenital and, as recently as today, became a medical problem,” explained the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins, who performed the necropsy.  A final cause of death and related findings are pending complete results of histology and other diagnostic testing, which is routine for all animal deaths at the zoo. The remains of the tiger will become part of the research and education collection at The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Rakata has been a favorite animal ambassador for Woodland Park Zoo guests since he arrived in 1998 from Toronto Zoo. “His majestic beauty and quiet strength kept us in awe and inspired millions of visitors to care about tigers. Our staff, volunteers, and tiger fans will miss Rakata and his chuffs and roars echoing off the walls of his exhibit,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

A 20-year-old female, JoJo, is the zoo’s sole surviving Sumatran tiger. She and Rakata lived together compatibly for 11 years and produced five cubs, the last cub born in 2006.

In 2014, the zoo will open a new, state-of-the-art exhibit complex for Malayan tigers that will also feature sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters and tropical birds. The id="mce_marker"9.6 million exhibit project, part of the zoo’s $80 million More Wonder More Wild Campaign, will transform the 60-year-old, outdated infrastructure into a state-of-the-art, spacious and naturalistic exhibit environment. The transformation will improve the exhibit experience for the zoo’s animals, visitors and staff, and will reduce resource consumption with sustainable design. Modeled on the theme “Sharing the Forest: People are the Conservation Solution,” the new exhibit complex will empower and inspire visitors with up-close animal encounters, hands-on learning and links to meaningful conservation actions visitors can take to build a better future for wildlife.

Follow the progress of the More Wonder More Wild comprehensive campaign and its eight initiatives, and learn how to get involved at

All six tiger subspecies – Sumatran, Amur (Siberian), Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and South China – are endangered with as few as 3,000 to 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild. The Sumatran is very rare with only about 400 believed to exist in the wild. The most critically endangered is the South China tiger with only a mere 20 to 30 remaining in the wild. The primary reasons for the decimation of wild tiger populations are illegal poaching, human overpopulation and habitat destruction.

Woodland Park Zoo saves animals and their habitats through conservation leadership and engaging experiences, inspiring people to learn, care and act.

Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, award-winning Woodland Park Zoo is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting international standards for zoos in animal care, conservation and education programs. Woodland Park Zoo is helping to save animals and their habitats in Washington state and in 50 countries around the world. By inspiring people to care and act, Woodland Park Zoo is making a difference in our planet’s future. For more information, visit