One of two endangered Siberian tigers at the Toronto Zoo has died.
Tongua, 17 years old, died while recovering from anesthesia after a lengthy surgery last Sunday.
The news of the tiger’s death comes after recent criticism of the Toronto Zoo. The death of its matriarch elephant last December raised questions over conditions for its animals.
The Toronto Zoo says the tiger was healthy up until two weeks ago.
“He was always doing really well” said Dr. Williams Rapley, the zoo’s executive director of biology and conservation. “He had a great healthy life and then suddenly he was looking strange, staggering around and acting feeble.”
On the Saturday before his death, the zoo’s veterinarians made the call to run tests on the animal. They found problems with the tiger’s spleen, liver and abdomens and decided to undergo further exploratory surgery.
“After recovering from the anesthetic, he died,” Rapley said.
The final cause of death will not be determined for several weeks, but cancer is not being ruled out.
Tongua was an “extremely important” tiger to the zoo, Rapley said. He offered strong genetics from Russian tigers and fathering nine of the 34 cubs the Toronto Zoo has bred since 1974, as part of the Tiger Species Survival Program.
Currently there are fewer than 900 Siberian tigers alive, making them one of the most endangered animals in the world.
Tatiana is the last remaining Siberian tiger at the Toronto Zoo.