SEATTLE ‒ JoJo, a 20-year-old, female Sumatran tiger at Woodland Park Zoo, was euthanized today following a period of physical decline and age-related kidney failure. The elderly tiger had lived with kidney disease since 2007.
The life expectancy of Sumatran tigers is 18 to 20 years in zoos and 15 years in the wild.
JoJo arrived in 2001 from Memphis Zoo as a breeding companion for the zoo’s only male tiger, Rakata, who passed away in February at age 19. The pair lived compatibly for 11 years and produced five cubs, the last cub born in 2006.
“It is with deep sadness that we say goodbye to JoJo and the last tiger in our animal collection. She regaled us with her majestic beauty and was a superb mother to her cubs,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “As a conservation ambassador, she helped visitors learn about the importance of tigers to healthy ecosystems in Asia and the fragile future this endangered species faces in the wild. Her legacy will live on through her offspring.”
The cat had been declining in health for several months and experienced progressive weight loss and appetite over the past couple of weeks. "Age-related changes in the kidney are a common cause of decline in geriatric zoo cats,” explained the zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins. “We knew JoJo was near the end of her life and the zookeepers and veterinary staff have done an excellent job of making her final days as comfortable as possible.”
The zoo’s animal health team will perform a necropsy (animal autopsy) at the zoo. The zoo will be notified of a final cause of death and related findings 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.
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.
The adult tigers may have represented the last remaining tigers at the zoo, but a new chapter for tigers will begin when the zoo opens a new, state-of-the-art exhibit complex in 2014, according to Ramirez. “We will introduce the Malayan tiger, a related endangered subspecies, to our visitors,” explained Ramirez.
In addition to Malayan tigers, the complex also will 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 www.morewonder.org.