17-year-old Tiger Euthanized at Phoenix Zoo Due to Kidney Failure, 'Will Be Greatly Missed'

A 17-year-old Sumatran tiger who died after his health declined at Phoenix Zoo will be "greatly missed."

The male tiger, Jai, had been suffering from chronic kidney disease when the zoo decided to euthanize him.

Jai was born at Louisville Zoo and had been at the Phoenix Zoo since 2005. The zoo said in a Facebook post, which can be found here, that the average life expectancy for tigers is 18.4 years.

Chronic kidney disease is a common cause of death and illness in captive tigers and can develop over a period of months or years. Citing a 2018 study, the zoo said Sumatran tigers have the highest percentage of deaths related to kidney disease of cats found in zoos, at 75 percent.

The zoo wrote that the tiger had a history of elevated renal values from previous medical exams. Elevated renal values are often a sign of kidney failure, however Jai had only recently become affected by the disease.

Jai was also treated for a secondary urinary tract infection with antibiotics and was closely monitored by his keepers and veterinary staff before his death.

In a Facebook post, the zoo said Jai was a favourite among visitors.

Gary West, senior vice president of animal health and living collections at the zoo, said that they made the "difficult decision" to euthanize the tiger when they felt that his quality of life was severely impacted. He said that the tiger's appetite had decreased and his activity levels declined.

To continue treating the tiger would have required anesthesia to give him supportive care and fluid therapy.

"Jai has been a staff and guest favorite since his arrival to the Zoo in 2005," Kara Schilling, curator of mammals for the Phoenix Zoo, said in a statement. "He has been a tremendous ambassador for his wild counterparts and our team has enjoyed every minute we've had the pleasure of caring for him."

Schilling said: "We will miss his 'roars' to greet the carnivore keeper staff in the mornings, and his 'grumbles' while he impatiently waited for his keepers to get his diet ready – and letting them know his displeasure over the perceived wait. He was a very vocal cat who always made his viewpoints known. He will be greatly missed!"

The zoo currently has another female Sumatran tiger called Joanne, who arrived from the San Diego Safari Park in June as a breeding partner for Jai. Tigers only come together to breed, and are solitary animals by nature.

In comments on the zoo's Facebook post, people said they had been visiting the male tiger for many years and gave their condolences.

Tiger
A stock photo shows a Sumatran tiger. A Sumatran tiger at Phoenix zoo has been euthanized. africandesigns/Getty Images