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Posted at 4:05 PM ET, 05/28/2010

Tiger dies at the National Zoo

By Washington Post editors


Rokan, a prolific breeder who was one of the oldest living Sumtran tigers in captivity has died, officials at the National Zoo announced Friday. He was 19.

Zoo officials had to euthanize him after they discovered he had a neuromuscular disorder as the result of a spinal cord disease.

During his lifetime, Rokan, named after the Rokan River in Sumatra, sired 10 living cubs, seven males and three females. One of Rokan’s offspring, four-year-old Guntur, still lives at the National Zoo.

Rokan was born in Texas at the San Antonio Zoo on Sept. 6, 1990, and came to the National Zoo in 1997.

“He was unusual for a Sumatran in that he had a rather muscular, bulky build. Most Sumatrans are like swimmers—they’re sleek and sinuous. Rokan was more like a linebacker,” said Marie Magnuson, a tiger keep who worked with Rokan for more than a decade.

Although tigers are generally solitary, Rokan formed an especially strong bond with the Zoo’s elderly female tiger, Soyono, Magnuson said. Together they had three litters of cubs together.

“He was also very calm,'' Magnuson added. "We could run a wet vac in the next enclosure, and he’d sleep right through it. Nothing seemed to upset him, except not knowing where Soyono was.”

Rokan had been suffering from rear-leg lameness and during the course of treatment for that affliction, Zoo officials discovered he had a neuromuscular disorder as a result of spinal cord disease. He was treated with medications to ensure his comfort and improve his coordination. However, in December 2009, Rokan’s condition again worsened.

“We knew he would get to the point when his quality of life was no longer medically manageable or acceptable,” said Dr. Katharine Hope, associate veterinarian at the National Zoo. “Input from the veterinary team, animal keepers and curators informs the careful decisions we must make about an elderly animal’s quality of life.”

According to The Save the Tiger Fund estimates that there are about 4,000 wild tigers living in Asia. Tigers are found in a variety of settings from the tropical rainforests in Sumatra and Indochina to the temperate oak forest of the Amur River Valley in eastern Russia.

Photo by Jessie Cohen/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

By Washington Post editors  | May 28, 2010; 4:05 PM ET
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What a good boy! RIP.

Posted by: catsrtasty | May 29, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

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