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Sita the tiger dies at Reid Park Zoo

The sole tiger at Tucson's city zoo was euthanized Thursday because of advanced kidney disease. Sita was 19 years old; her companion Baheem died in February.

Sita was a "wonderful animal," officials said. Since coming to the Reid Park Zoo in 2011, "she would often delight onlookers as she engaged with enrichment, swimming in her pool, and lounging along the glass windows at the front of the habitat."

Sita had developed kidney disease at age 7, before coming to the zoo. Tigers have a median life expectancy of 16 years. Sita had also been treated for  arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatic insufficiency as she aged.

"The arthritis treatment helped Sita continue moving around comfortably, even chasing wild birds in her habitat in the last few weeks," the zoo said.

But Monday, she showed "extreme lethargy" and was given a full exam by the zoo's veterinarian, Dr. Alexis Roth.

"Kidney disease is a common condition in elderly domestic cats and we frequently see it in big cats as well. The condition is treated the same in large and small cats, with oral medication and fluids," Roth said. "In animals we cannot do dialysis like in humans and ultimately the treatments we can provide are only successful for a limited period."

Despite treatment with supplemental fluids, Sita declined rapidly and was humanely euthanized Thursday morning.

"This time at our Zoo is particularly difficult as we recently lost our male lion, Shombay, about a week ago from kidney failure. Baheem, the zoo's 18-year-old male tiger, passed away earlier this year from geriatric conditions. Our staff and all the fans of our big cats are mourning the loss of all three of these magnificent individuals. The animal care and veterinary teams have done a tremendous job caring for our aging animals and those with chronic disease. We were all aware that this day would come, but it does not make it any easier," said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Zoological Operations director at the zoo.

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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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