Hamilton Zoo has sadly said farewell to Sumatran tiger Oz.
Zoo Director Dr Baird Fleming said 15-year-old Oz became unwell over the past week and tests on Monday (28 September) indicated serious renal issues. The decision was made on Wednesday to humanly euthanise.
“Unfortunately, renal complications are quite common in older tigers and treatment is extremely difficult,” said Dr Fleming.
Tests were carried out on Oz following a recent change in his behaviour and a noticeable increase in his water intake that raised concern with his keepers.
“The carnivore team did an amazing job over just a couple of days working with Oz to take the necessary bloods voluntarily for testing without causing him any distress. But the results confirmed that things were not good,” said Dr Fleming.
“The team continued to monitor him closely, spent lots of time with him and – as hard as it is – animals let you know when it is time.”
Dr Fleming said the team were feeling the loss deeply as the passing of an animal was always tough, but their main priority for animals in their care was to ensure they did not suffer.
“Caring for these wild animals is an absolute privilege, so while we are definitely feeling it right now we also take solace in the fact that we were able to step in and make Oz comfortable before he became really unwell.”
While Oz would be remembered as fussy with his food, the carnivore keepers who cared for him said that if “he chuffed at you, you could go home happy – job done”. Chuffing is the sound a tiger makes when happy and relaxed. Oz will be greatly missed.
He was especially courteous in the way he interacted with the female tigers, giving Mencari and Sali their space but chuffing close by so they knew he was there.
While Oz was paired with Sali, it was Mencari with whom he had a special friendship. The two spent most of their time together, which is rare for typically solitary animals but testament to his gentle manner.
Oz was born in November 2004 at Tel Aviv Zoo in Israel and transferred to Auckland Zoo in 2006. An important part of the international breeding programme, Oz fathered Auckland Zoo’s first Sumatran tiger cubs with Molek in 2008.
He transferred to Hamilton Zoo in 2013 where he joined Sali and fathered cubs Kirana and Kembali. Kirana remains at Hamilton Zoo with Sali and Mencari, while Kembali transferred to Adelaide Zoo in 2018 for breeding.
Sumatran tigers are critically endangered with less than 400 remaining in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Numbers are declining due to habitat loss from palm-oil deforestation and poaching.
Dr Fleming said the team was committed to the international breeding programme for this significant species.