Cila, an Amur tiger and one of the senior big cats at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, has died.
The zoo announced Cila’s death on Wednesday. She was 18. According to the zoo’s statement, Amur tigers — also known as Siberian tigers — have a life expectancy of between 10 and 15 years in the wild.
Cila had been in declining health, according to Bob Cisneros, the Salt Lake City zoo’s associate director of animal care.
“As her geriatric challenges and health concerns became more serious,” a statement from the zoo said, Hogle’s animal care team, veterinary staff and zoo officials “made the difficult decision to say good-bye.”
Cila was born April 17, 2003, and arrived at Hogle Zoo from the Indianapolis Zoo in 2015, living in the zoo’s Asian Highlands habitat.
“Cila was a favorite amongst the Asian Highlands keepers,” Melanie Kuse, animal care supervisor in the habitat, said in a statement. In the last few years, Cila “demanded a lot more attention than some of the younger cats, so we spent a lot of time in the day making sure she was carefully observed and attended to.”
Now, Kuse said, the habitat “is sadly a bit quieter without Cila’s typical calls and vocalizations, and there is a tiger-size hole in our hearts.”
Cisneros said that animals at the zoo “tend to live longer” than they did before. “As our quality of animal care improves over time, so does the longevity of our animals,” Cisneros said. Because of that, he added, “age-related issues become all the more apparent.”
The Amur tiger is considered a critically endangered species, with an estimated 500 to 550 cats left in the wild. Their natural habitat is along the Amur River, in parts of Russia and China — and possibly, though it can’t be verified, North Korea.
There are conservation programs in place to try and rebuild the tiger’s population to sustainable levels, but threats of poaching and loss of habitat from deforestation work against those efforts.