Last tiger at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo dies

The late JoJo, right, being snuggled by one of her cubs. (Photo credit: Dale Unruh)

Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo’s last tiger died Friday.

JoJo, a 20-year-old, female Sumatran tiger, was euthanized following a period of physical decline and age-related kidney failure, the zoo said. The elderly tiger had lived with kidney disease since 2007.

The life expectancy of Sumatran tigers is 18 to 20 years in zoos and 15 years in the wild, the zoo said.

JoJo arrived in 2001 from the Memphis, Tenn., zoo as a breeding companion for the zoo’s only male tiger, Rakata, which died in February at age 19.

JoJo and Rakata lived compatibly for 11 years and produced five cubs, the last cub born in 2006, the zoo said.

“It is with deep sadness that we say goodbye to JoJo and the last tiger in our animal collection. She regaled us with her majestic beauty and was a superb mother to her cubs,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

The cat had been declining in health for several months and experienced progressive weight loss and appetite over the past couple of weeks.

"Age-related changes in the kidney are a common cause of decline in geriatric zoo cats,” explained the zoo’s director of animal health, Dr. Darin Collins. “We knew JoJo was near the end of her life and the zookeepers and veterinary staff have done an excellent job of making her final days as comfortable as possible.”

 All six tiger subspecies – Sumatran, Amur (Siberian), Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan and South China – are endangered, with as few as 3,000 to 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild, the zoo said. The Sumatran is very rare, with only about 400 believed to exist in the wild.

The primary reasons for the decimation of wild tiger populations are illegal poaching, human overpopulation and habitat destruction, the zoo said. 

Woodland already has plans to obtain another tiger.

The zoo will open a new, state-of-the-art exhibit complex in 2014, according to Ramirez. “We will introduce the Malayan tiger, a related endangered subspecies, to our visitors,” Ramirez said.