Zoo euthanizes tiger Holly
19-year-old animal suffered seizures
By Karen Smith Welch
Publication Date: 09/01/09
A Bengal tiger acquired to signify bold changes for the Amarillo Zoo died last weekend after suffering steadily worsening seizures.
Consulting veterinarian Dr. Merton Pearson euthanized the 225-pound tiger, Holly, on Saturday after it was determined her condition would continue to decline, Zoo Curator Rhonda Votino said.
“It was a very difficult decision, but her quality of life had deteriorated to a point where we felt it was the most humane alternative,” Votino said.
The seizures began about a week ago, causing zoo staff to take the tiger off exhibit for monitoring, Votino said.
Holly didn’t recover well from being anesthetized for a physical examination, and seizure medication did not stem the episodes, Votino said.
“The seizures just got worse and worse,” she said.
Preliminary findings of a necropsy included discovery of a possible thyroid tumor, Votino said.
However, the seizures are suspected to have originated with a problem in Holly’s brain, Votino said.
At 19, the aging tiger had been treated for many months for arthritis. But Holly still lived a long life, by exotic cat standards, Votino said.
Tigers live 10 to 15 years in the wild and 15 to 20 years in captivity, she said.
“Once in awhile, you’ll get a big cat that will live into its 20s, but that doesn’t happen very often.”
Holly came to the Amarillo Zoo about six years ago, on loan at first, from a nonprofit group hoping to establish a zoo in Lubbock, said city Parks and Recreation Director Larry Offerdahl.
“Really, Holly showed that the Amarillo Zoo was starting to transform itself with a new master plan,” Offerdahl said.
“Since 2004, we’ve added eight new exhibits to the zoo.”
Holly became a favorite among zoo-goers, helping to increase attendance, he said.
“She was a very special cat,” Offerdahl said. “I would go over there and call her name out, and she would actually come up to the fence and purr like a big cat.”
Offerdahl said city parks and zoo staff will take 30 to 60 days to determine how to fill Holly’s space.
A different type of cat could be placed there while a long-range plan to build a larger tiger exhibit in another location is pursued, he said.
Votino said people wanting to send condolences can send them to the Amarillo Zoo, P.O. Box 1971, Amarillo, TX, 79105.
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