Columbus Zoo euthanizes tiger due to complications from leukemia

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium announced Wednesday that it had to euthanize one if its tigers due to leukemia.

According to the zoo:

Today, we celebrate and remember the life of Irisa, one of the female Amur tigers at the Columbus Zoo. Animal Care and Animal Health staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her this morning, as her health had recently and significantly declined after receiving long-term care for acute leukemia.

During a routine exam in January 2019, it was revealed that she had an extremely low white blood cell count. Following this result, another exam and extensive testing were performed to determine the cause of the abnormal bloodwork. A bone marrow aspirate collected during this time confirmed the diagnosis of acute leukemia. Although medical management protocols exist for treating leukemia in animals, they have side effects that require close monitoring, and often delay but do not prevent the progression of the disease. The decision was made to provide Irisa with the opportunity to continue her normal routine under the watchful eyes of her caregivers for as long as she was comfortable.

Irisa came to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from the Louisville Zoo, and she was one of the first residents of the Columbus Zoo’s Asia Quest region when it opened in 2006. She lived to be 15 years old, which exceeded the median life expectancy of 14.3 years for female Amur tigers living in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Irisa played an important part in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan® for Amur tigers, giving birth to two separate litters of cubs based on the recommended pairings from the SSP of Irisa and male, Foli, in 2015 and then Irisa and male, Jupiter, in 2017. Each of these births was a significant achievement for the species, which is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List for Threatened Species™ with fewer than 400 left in the Russian Far East.

The Animal Care team says that Irisa was feisty, a great mom, and not easily won over—which made it even more meaningful to them that they formed such a special bond with her.

We welcome you to share your favorite tiger photos or memories in the comments below. She will be deeply missed.

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