Zoo’s tiger dies after bout with renal failure

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Zoo’s tiger dies after bout with renal failure

Scott Richardson srichardson@pantagraph.com Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 12:15 pm

BLOOMINGTON — Besar, one of two Sumatran tigers housed at Miller Park Zoo, died Tuesday. He was 18.

Zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff said he and park staff decided to euthanize Besar after they determined his year-long bout with renal failure had severely undermined his quality of life.

Sumatran tigers have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. Besar was the eighth oldest of the 85 housed in accredited zoos in America.

“It’s the ugly part of our job,” said Tetzloff. “But we want to make sure the animals are comfortable and we are doing what’s best for them.”

Miller Park Zoo remains the only zoo in Illinois with a Sumatran tiger on exhibit. Rojo, a 10-year-old male, arrived there in April.

Besar arrived at the Bloomington facility in 2003 from the San Diego Zoo. Already growing old by tiger standards, Besar was moved to Illinois to make room in the California zoo’s captive breeding program, whose goal is to protect the animals from extinction.

About 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Illegal poaching reduces their number by about 10 percent each year despite game preserves and strict regulations.

Tetzloff does not know how soon another Sumatran tiger might arrive at Miller Park Zoo.

The Miller Park Zoological Society is in the midst of a major effort to raise $500,000 to $700,000 to remodel the zoo’s oldest building, the Katthoefer Animal Building, to accommodate a breeding pair of Sumatran tigers. Plans call for the exhibit to include two enclosures, one for a younger male tiger and the other for a female tiger and eventually their offspring.



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