Point Defiance Zoo euthanizes tiger after ‘sharp decline in health’

Jun 5, 2024, 6:50 PM

Photo: Sanjiv....

Sanjiv. (Photo courtesy of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium)

(Photo courtesy of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium)

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has euthanized its 13-year-old Sumatran tiger. According to a Facebook post from the zoo on Monday, Sanjiv had “a sharp decline in health” over the weekend. The tiger was suffering from spinal disease.

“Sanjiv showed progressive changes in his mobility and overall comfort levels and radiographs showed degenerative spinal changes. Many different medications, and combinations of medications, were used to try and address his discomfort but none resulted in significant improvement,” Head Veterinarian at Point Defiance Zoo Dr. Karen Wolf told MyNorthwest in a statement.

Wolf said the zoo tried cold laser therapy, acupuncture and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy to keep the tiger comfortable. They also gave him an epidural injection of a steroid but it only provided temporary improvement.

Wolf added Sanjiv’s blood work showed changes to his kidneys and his kidney disease led to hypertension that is similar to renal disease in humans.

According to Wolf, Sanjiv didn’t have significant medical issues when he was younger, but as he aged veterinarians detected degenerative changes to his spine, which have been noted in other tigers and large cats. Wolf said the changes are similar to what domestic dogs and cats face, however, the condition in felines is less detectable.

More animals: Woodland Park Zoo shares ultrasound pictures of popular animal for the first time

Renal disease is also common in older felines and similarly to when people age, tigers face problems as they get older.

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the life span of a tiger in the wild is between 10 to 15 years. In human care, tigers can live up to 20 years. Sanjiv was 13 years old.

The zoo said the tiger came from the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center. KING 5 reported Sanjiv made his debut at the Point Defiance Zoo in January 2023.

“Sanjiv was a magnificent ambassador for his species and a beloved figure among both staff and guests,” stated the zoo in the Facebook post.

A zoo spokesperson told MyNorthwest Sumatran tigers are critically endangered in the wild, with only about 400 left on their native Indonesian Island of Sumatra. However, the Point Defiance Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ tiger Species Survival Plan.

Accredited zoos share a list of all the tigers in their care, along with their genetic makeup, explained the spokesperson. Then they look at each animal’s personality, age, behavior, history and location and recommend which zoos animals should go to for breeding. 

“Point Defiance Zoo plans to continue this partnership into the future,” stated the spokesperson.

However, no tiger is the same and the loss of Sanjiv is being felt throughout the zoo.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with all who cared for him. He will be profoundly missed,” shared the zoo on Facebook.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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