DES MOINES, Iowa (February 18, 2014) – Officials from Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo announced today the passing of its male Amur (Siberian) tiger, Kavacha. The tiger died of heart failure after a brief illness.
“Kavacha was a great ambassador of a species that will likely go extinct in the wild without major conservation effort,” said Mark Vukovich, Blank Park Zoo CEO. “He will always be remembered for the thrill he gave many of his fans when he would walk up to the exhibit window and jump up and rub his paws on it.”
The Wildlife Conservation Society Siberian Tiger Project estimates only 350 Amur tigers remain in the wild.
“No one can deny how impressive it was to be near him,” said Bonnie Van Ellen, carnivore and primate area supervisor. “Kavacha reached so many people – he will not be forgotten by the public or his mate, Goldy.”
Kavacha was born at the Indianapolis Zoo on October 7, 1998 and moved to Blank Park Zoo on June 20, 2001. In 2007, Kavacha became part of a formalized non-contact animal training program that allowed keepers to train him to take part in his care. Kavacha was trained to stand on a scale so keepers could monitor his weight and present parts of his body for inspection.
Amur tigers are the largest of the great cats and can eat up to 10 or more pounds meat a day. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a male Amur tiger has a median life expectancy of 16 years.
In accredited zoos, the placement of tigers is controlled by a Species Survival Program (SSP). This program is in place to ensure the survival of Amur tigers in zoos. Zoo officials will work with the SSP to have another tiger placed at Blank Park Zoo with the zoo’s remaining female tiger, Goldy.