WILMINGTON, Del. — Officials said a male Siberian tiger at the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington was euthanized Thursday after developing weakness in his hind legs that made it hard for him to move around.
The 18-year-old tiger, named Sergei, was put down by a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania. A postmortem examination will be conducted on the tiger before cremation.
Officials said the tiger’s condition had worsened during the past three weeks.
Zoo director Nancy Falasco said every effort was made to improve the big cat’s condition before they decided to euthanize him.
Falasco said Sergei’s long life is a tribute to the care he received at the Brandywine Zoo and at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado, where he was born in 1988. Sergei was brought to the Brandywine Zoo in 1998.
According to the officials, zookeepers raised Sergei from birth at Cheyenne Mountain after his mother abandoned him, and this affected his development. His preference for people manifested itself when the Brandywine Zoo introduced him to its other Siberian tiger, Ashley, according to the zoo.
“Their relationship was one of growls and the occasional fight,” Falasco said. The zoo eventually built a separate enclosure to house the female tiger.
Zoo officials also noted that Sergei had “become a favorite of all who [had] gotten to know him.”
“We will fondly recall his morning greetings and playfulness, and his love of papier-mâché animals and pizza boxes,” Falasco said.
In eight days, Sergei would have turned 19. The typical life span of a Siberian tiger in the wild is 10-12 years, officials said. In captivity, longevity may reach as high as 20 years.
Siberian tigers are an endangered species, with approximately 200 individuals known to exist in the wild, according to officials.