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Elderly Cheetah Euthanized at National Zoo

Zabini, an elderly male cheetah living at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, was humanely euthanized late evening Aug. 3. He was being treated for ongoing weakness in his hind limbs and was anesthetized for a complete exam Monday. Hind-limb weakness is a possible symptom of a neurologic disorder. During the exam, veterinarians also found signs of suspected liver disease.

Zabini never fully regained consciousness after the exam. Veterinarians performed a second exam later that day, which revealed worsening symptoms of kidney and liver disease. The Zoo's animal care team made the decision to humanely euthanize Zabini after it became clear his quality of life was quickly declining. A preliminary necropsy confirmed hepatic and pancreatic disease. Final results will likely not be available for four to six weeks.

The median life expectancy for male cheetahs in the wild is between six and eight years. Zabini was 10-and-a-half years old. Approximately 30 percent of male cheetahs in human care live to that age.

Zabini lived at the Cheetah Conservation Station with his brother Granger. Male cheetahs usually live in groups called coalitions, often made up of brothers. Granger, also 10-and-a-half years old, will remain at the Cheetah Conservation Station. Keepers expect Granger to adjust to the transition well; males will sometimes live on their own in the wild, and Granger has not displayed any behavioral changes when separated from his brother for brief periods in the past. In addition to Granger, the Cheetah Conservation Station is home to two other adult male cheetahs, Gat and Bakari.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the cheetah as vulnerable. It is estimated there are 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild.