Young Calif. zoo cheetah dies during examination

Bill Byron
The Desert Sun
April 29, 2007

The youngest of The Living Desert’s three cheetahs died during a routine examination.
Sabi was 6 years old and had been at The Living Desert for the past five years. She died on Monday while coming out of anesthesia during her annual exam.

“It’s unusual but anesthesia is always risky – it’s the same with people,” said Kevin Leiske, the veterinarian who administered the anesthesia during the animal’s annual exam.

Annual exams are necessary with all of the zoo animals, especially cheetahs, as they have very unique health problems that have to be checked regularly, according to an internal memo Leiske wrote.

The exact cause of death remains unknown, but a complete necropsy was performed and tests are pending.

“We’re hoping to get those back sometime this week,” said Terrie Correll, chief operating officer at The Living Desert.

Correll said the zoo will try to replace Sabi with another cheetah, but added that it depends on availability.

“We work with other zoos in North America and we’re part of a breeding plan, so we have to see what (cheetahs) would be available to replace her,” she said.

The cheetahs do not cost The Living Desert any money and are “typically loaned out or donated,” Correll said.

Cheetahs can live up to 20 years in captivity and the zoo’s other two cheetahs are both 13 years old.

The cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth and can run up to 70 mph. AID=/20070429/NEWS01/704290322/1006

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