For Release: September 21, 2007
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Pamela Baker-Masson (202) 633-3084
Matt Olear (202) 633-4085
National Zoo Euthanizes Cheetah
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo staff euthanized an 8-year-old male cheetah named Ume Wednesday after a rapid decline in the animal’s condition. Ume came to the National Zoo in 2004 from White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fl., where he survived a lightning strike that killed his sibling and staff speculate may have contributed to his health issues.
Ume did well during his initial introduction to the National Zoo, but had a history of health issues which animal care staff carefully monitored. Animal care staff managed the cat’s poor appetite since his arrival at the Zoo but noted a significant decline in his appetite and weight several months ago. At that time, veterinarians performed a physical examination under anesthesia and discovered a form of gastritis that is common in cheetahs as well as an inflammation of the colon. Ume initially responded to medical therapy, but in recent weeks, his condition worsened—he became more lethargic and continued to lose weight. A repeat examination under anesthesia Wednesday did not reveal the cause of his illness, and based upon Ume’s decline in quality of life, animal care staff made the decision to humanely euthanize him. A final pathology report may provide information on the cause of Ume’s illness.
Ume was brought to the National Zoo specifically to breed, and in 2005, he sired a litter of five cubs—the second litter of cheetahs ever born at the National Zoo—with Zazi, one of the Zoo’s female cheetahs. Ume and Zazi’s cubs were all sent to other accredited zoos in accordance with the cheetah Species Survival Plan—a cooperative breeding program amongst zoos to conserve endangered species.
Cheetahs, the world’s fastest land mammals, are listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union’s list of threatened species. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 cheetahs survive in the wild, most in small populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Cheetahs live eight to 10 years in the wild.
The National Zoo currently has five cheetahs—three males and two females.
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