Amba enjoyed the comfort of her custom-made bed.
Posted January 26, 2021
The Zoo is sad to announce that one of its female Amur tigers, Amba, was humanely euthanized Jan. 22. At 17 years old, she was experiencing a declining quality of life due to serious health issues. The median life expectancy for female Amur tigers in human care is 14.3 years.
Recently, Amba had a re-occurrence of cancer on her spine. In 2017, Zoo veterinarians removed a cancerous lump from her spine. At that time, her second litter of cubs was 8 months old. The veterinary team was not able to excise the entire lump because it was so widespread and near the spinal column.
After the surgery, her prognosis was guarded, as the animal care team believed the cancer would return in about one year. However, she went on to live comfortably for another 3 ½ years, so Amba’s keepers were overjoyed with the extra time they were able to have with her.
As Amba lived with the diagnosis, she was getting spoiled by her keepers, which included extra treats and enrichment and even a new bed! Zoo staff made Amba a bed from donated firehouses. Some of the other Zoo residents benefit from similar beds which assist geriatric animals as they begin to experience mobility issues.
Zookeepers were closely monitoring Amba, and as her quality of life deteriorated, the decision was made for humane euthanasia.
Keepers comment and remember Amba as being a wonderful animal to work with, displaying excellent maternal care and attentiveness to all her cubs.
Amba was a favorite of every keeper that worked in Big Cat Country. She always greeted everyone with a chuff (welcome greeting) and all of her attention. Keepers say Amba was a “once in a career” type of cat. She always seemed eager to participate in whatever the keepers asked of her; allowing keepers to be with her cubs from the beginning and helping her when they were sick. She overcame multiple health issues to live past her life expectancy. She was always a fighter and always proving to keepers why she should never be underestimated.
She taught staff so much about what it meant to be a tiger keeper, and what was possible if her caregivers just had a little trust in her too. She was considered the matriarch of Big Cat Country and will be greatly missed by her longtime keepers and visitors.
Amba arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2006 from the Buffalo Zoo (she was born at the Philadelphia Zoo in 2003) and had her first offspring here in 2009; two females Tula and Nuri. Recommended to move for conservation and breeding purposes, Nuri was relocated to Mesker Park in Evansville, Indiana, a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). As species move to other zoos across the country, this ensures their genes are not over-represented in animal populations at accredited zoos.
In 2016, Amba gave birth to three cubs, male, Kashtan, and females, Eloise and Bernadette. Kashtan remains at the Zoo while Eloise and Bernadette were recommended to move to the Oregon Zoo, also an AZA-accredited facility.