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Baheem the tiger dies at Reid Park Zoo

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Baheem the tiger dies at Reid Park Zoo

  • Baheem in 2013.
    Reid Park ZooBaheem in 2013.
  • Baheem in 2015.
    Reid Park ZooBaheem in 2015.
  • Baheem's paw during a 2013 vet exam.
    Reid Park ZooBaheem's paw during a 2013 vet exam.

An 18-year-old Malayan tiger died at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo on Friday after a few weeks of illness.

Baheem and his companion Sita, a female, have been at the zoo since they were cubs.

Baheem was considered a "geriatric tiger," zoo officials said. The median life expectancy of his species is 16 years.

"Baheem was such a fun tiger to train and care for. He would make chuffing sounds when keepers would greet him in the morning and was always enthusiastic about special treats like bones and popsicles," said Animal Care Supervisor Rebecca Edwards.

Baheem had developed conditions such as arthritis and chronic kidney disease over the last few years, and in recent months he had pancreatic insufficiency and chronic inflammatory bowel disease. All of these diseases are common in older cats, officials said.

Over the past few weeks, Baheem’s health started to decline. He was taken to the zoo's veterinary center as his appetite decreased, and an exam confirmed ongoing arthritis, kidney disease, pancreatic insufficiency, and chronic inflammatory bowel disease, but also revealed Valley fever and an enlarged spleen.

His condition didn't respond effectively to medication, and the tiger was euthanized on Friday.

"Tigers are generally solitary animals, with the exception of the breeding season. While Sita and Baheem were only together for breeding cycles, they could see and hear one another while on habitat daily. Animal care staff will monitor Sita in the coming weeks as we expect the loss of Baheem to impact her as well. Our staff can provide more training time with Sita for companionship and more enrichment as well,” said Sue Tygielski, the zoo's director of operations.

Baheem and Sita were both born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2001. There are only about 350 Malayan tigers remaining in the wild. They are threatened by habitat loss from deforestation for palm oil planations, hunting and poaching, and the poaching of their main prey, sambar deer.

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