Molniy, the Minnesota Zoo’s oldest tiger, died Sunday after a string of health complications, officials said. The geriatric cat, who suffered from arthritis, was nearly 17 years old — or about 80 in human years.
Three Amur tigers remain at the Apple Valley zoo, which cares for about 5,000 animals every day. Many of them will eventually die in the facility, experts say, but often live longer in captivity than in the wild.
Molniy moved in 2002 from the Detroit Zoo to Minnesota where he remained fit until about 2013, when arthritis settled in his hips. Zookeepers put the cat on pain medication, which eventually increased to three different prescriptions, including a steroid for inflammation. His handlers kept the 325-pound beast on the lean side to avoid putting too much pressure on his hips.
He was “humanely euthanized” due to chronic health issues and his declining health overall, a zoo spokesman said.
“Molniy was a favorite among his zookeepers,” said Diana Weinhardt, Northern Trail curator. “He will be greatly missed by all the staff who worked with him in the 14 years he was here.”
From May 2015 to May 2016, 177 animals died at the zoo. Of that total, 96 were birds, 73 were mammals and eight were reptiles. The numbers do not include smaller animals managed in groups, such as hissing cockroaches and most fish.
Victims of old age this year included a 24-year-old and a 25-year-old bison, a 22-year-old camel, a 16-year-old Holstein bull and a 31-year-old African penguin. All of the animals lived past their average life expectancy for their species.
Nadya, a 3-year-old tiger, was one of the most unexpected deaths in May. Necropsy results revealed an infection or inflammation of her liver, kidneys, stomach and intestines. Her results were inconclusive, according to the zoo.
In some cases, the zoo relies on its breeding program to replace animals. After Nadya’s death, officials said they were relying on two of its tigers, Patrice and Putin, to breed.
Amur tigers are the largest of all cats and are a top predator in eastern Asia. The Minnesota Zoo and other national zoos have made a concerted conservation effort to help protect the endangered animals from poaching and habitat loss.
Molniy leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter named Sundari, who also lives at the Minnesota Zoo.