GRAND RAPIDS, MI — An 18-year-old Amur tiger at Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo has been euthanized following weeks of declining health, officials said.
A female tiger named Nika was euthanized after a veterinary examination on June 8 found her to be in poor health, officials said Saturday in a post on the zoo’s Facebook page.
“In recent years, (Nika’s) caretakers began noticing changes in her movement — as with many of us as we age, Nika had developed arthritis,” officials said. “While treatments initially helped keep Nika comfortable, she showed signs of significant aging and decline in recent weeks.”
Nika first arrived at the zoo in 2014 and was the first big cat to move into the “Tigers of the Realm” habitat when it opened, officials said.
Nika was born in 2005 at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and lived there until she moved to the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing in 2009, officials said. While in Lansing Nika gave birth to four cubs as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan breeding program.
Amur tigers are considered “critically endangered” with only a suspected 350-450 tigers remaining in the wild, where they have a life expectancy of 8-10 years, officials said.
“As female tigers have a life expectancy of about 14 years in AZA-accredited institutions, we feel incredibly lucky to have spent some of Nika’s 18 years with her,” zoo officials said. “Nika served as a wonderful ambassador for her species, and she is going to be dearly missed by everyone who cared for her.”
According to John Ball Zoo, Amur tigers are the largest cats in the world and one of the most endangered. Natives to the far east of Russia and northeast China, poaching is the biggest threat to the species, followed by habitat loss and infectious disease, officials said.
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