PORTLAND — Oregon Zoo veterinarians euthanized Fred, a rare, 17-year-old Amur leopard, who had an aggressive form of terminal cancer. Veterinarians and zookeepers were by his side when he died Tuesday.
“We had a lot of people involved in managing Fred’s care,” said Chris Pfefferkorn, general curator. “It became apparent that his quality of life was not improving, despite the best efforts of all involved. Zoo veterinarians and staff determined that the only humane thing to do was to euthanize him.”
In September, zoo veterinarians discovered a tumor, which they removed. Attempts to eradicate the cancer with chemotherapy failed.
Pfefferkorn reflected on the loss: “Losing Fred is extremely difficult for everyone involved in his care. He was a very special cat and a wonderful ambassador for his critically endangered species. He will be sorely missed,” he said.
“Fred could help improve the understanding of cancer in leopards,” said Pfefferkorn.
“Studying his remains can provide important insight. Through a comprehensive necropsy, we hope to discover clues on how we can improve the health and welfare of the world’s few remaining Amur leopards.”
Fred came to Portland in April 2000 from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo. His arrival was considered a first step in returning big cats to the Oregon Zoo after major exhibit construction required removal of the old feline building.
Kia, a 12-year-old female Amur leopard who shared Fred’s exhibit space, remains at the zoo. She and Fred were not a breeding pair. Kia came to Portland last year to help create more breeding space at her former home, the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania.
Amur leopards have a life expectancy of about 15 to 19 years in captivity. They are native to eastern Russia, and only about 35-45 are thought to be left in the wild.
Also known as the Manchurian or Korean leopard, the species has slowly drifted from Korea to China and finally to eastern Russia, where zoologists say it is making a last stand. The habitat today is mainly the mountains along Siberia’s Amur River Valley, where habitat destruction and loss of prey species have greatly reduced its numbers.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org