Putin, a 12-year-old Amur tiger at the Minnesota Zoo, died during a routine procedure on Wednesday.
The tiger, who came to the zoo as an adult with the name Putin, experienced cardiac failure during a preventative health exam on Wednesday and despite efforts by veterinarians, animal health technicians, and zookeepers, he died.
The Minnesota Zoo, which has been involved with tiger conservation for more than 40 years, called the tiger’s death a “profound loss.” The zoo is now home to just one Amur tiger, an adult female named Sundari.
“Today is an incredibly hard day for all of us at the Minnesota Zoo and we will be mourning for quite some time,” Minnesota Zoo Director John Frawley said in a statement. “Our Zoo has played a key role in global tiger conservation throughout our history and we currently are co-leaders of the Tiger Conservation Campaign, which has raised millions of dollars for tiger conservation.
“While this loss is great, we can be proud of our efforts — past, present, and future – to advance tiger conservation worldwide,” Frawley added.
Putin, who came to the Minnesota Zoo in 2015, was born in 2009 in the Czech Republic and given his name. He lived at the Denmark Zoo for six years before coming to the Apple Valley zoo. The tiger sired multiple cubs, including one born at the Minnesota Zoo in 2017.
The zoo says Putin was undergoing a preventive health examination that included the collection of samples to assist with breeding efforts at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan. Collecting these samples is “critical” to globally threatened species, including the Amur tiger.
“This was a routine procedure that is a vital part of our care and conservation work for tigers,” Dr. Taylor Yaw, the Minnesota Zoo’s chief of animal care, health and conservation. “We plan weeks ahead for these types of exams. All necessary precautions were taken, and the team did everything within their power to save this animal.”
It’s unclear why exactly the tiger died but a necropsy will be performed.
“We’ll continue to learn more in the days and months ahead, and we are grateful for the support of the University of Minnesota’s pathology team for their expertise and support as a necropsy is conducted,” Yaw said.
The Minnesota Zoo’s tiger conservation work is globally recognized and has led to the birth of 44 tiger cubs at the zoo. There are about 103 Amur tigers in accredited zoos in North America, and it’s believed there are fewer than 500 Amur tigers living in the wild.
Amur tigers live until they’re about 10-14 years old in the wild and closer to 20 years in captivity, the Oregon Zoo said.