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Sad News: Soyono the Tiger Dies at the Zoo

The Zoo decided to euthanize its older female Sumatran tiger because of suffering from spondylosis

The Sumatran tiger gave birth to three litters of cubs while at the National Zoo. Courtesy of the Zoo

Born in Washington in 1993, Soyono the 19-year-old Sumatran tiger had to be euthanized today, after suffering from spondylosis. Described by the Zoo as a sort of “vertebral arthritis,” the disease produces a bony growth in the vertebrae, which pushes on the surrounding nerves as it grows. Her breeding partner, Rokan, was also euthanized two years ago after suffering from the same disease.

Because of heavy deforestation, the Sumatran tiger is a critical endangered species, with just 700 individuals remaining in the entire world, with just 400 remaining in the wild in the animal’s native habitat—the forests of Indonesia.

Soyono gave birth to three litters in 2001, 2004 and 2006, delivering a total of seven cubs. Her cubs, which the Zoo likes to refer to as Ambassadors of the species, now reside in several zoos across the country, with one transported as far as Japan.

Remembered for her beautiful markings, Zoo staffers had their own memories of the spirited animal. “She is legendary among the craftsmen who work at the Zoo for hiding under her sleeping bench while they repaired some piece of equipment,” wrote a Zoo official. “She would be so quiet that they would forget that she was there. Then, when they had packed up their tools and started to walk out she would launch her almost 200 pounds against the chain link at the front of her enclosure with a deafening roar. Nothing made her happier or prouder than when they jumped about three feet straight up!”

The same official wrote about Soyono’s touching behavior when Rokan went through similar suffering. When Rokan was unable to leave his enclosure, Soyono chose to be as close as possible to him, even though it meant staying in “a drafty, cramped, cement floored runway.”

Some shots of Soyono in action. Courtesy of the Zoo

The proud mother with her cubs (left) and her mate (right). Courtesy of the Zoo

 

About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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