Minnesota Zoo tiger dies unexpectedly during medical exam 

A tiger lays in the snow at a zoo
The Minnesota Zoo says its 12-year-old male Amur tiger died Wednesday during a routine medical procedure at the zoo. The tiger was born in 2009 in the Czech Republic and given the name Putin; it lived at the Denmark Zoo for six years before arriving in Minnesota.
Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo says its 12-year-old male Amur tiger named Putin died Wednesday, after going into cardiac failure as veterinary staff were conducting what they called a routine preventative health exam.

“Today is an incredibly hard day for all of us at the Minnesota Zoo and we will be mourning for quite some time,” Minnesota Zoo Director John Frawley said in a news release.

The medical exam had included collecting samples for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums breeding plan for Amur tigers, which are considered a threatened species with fewer than 500 in the wild, and about 100 in North American zoos.

The tiger had been given the name Putin when he was born in the Czech Republic. Putin spent six years at the Denmark Zoo before coming to Minnesota. He had already been bred repeatedly, including a cub born at the Minnesota Zoo in 2017. 

But the zoo said the tiger went into cardiac failure during Wednesday’s procedure. “Despite heroic emergency efforts of veterinarians, animal health technicians, and zookeepers, he did not survive,” the zoo said in a statement. Zoo officials called the death “a profound loss.”  

“We plan weeks ahead for these types of exams. All necessary precautions were taken, and the team did everything within their power to save this animal,” said Dr. Taylor Yaw, the Minnesota Zoo’s chief of animal care, health and conservation. 

The death comes a month after veterinary staff at the Como Zoo in St. Paul had to euthanize a 17-year-old female tiger, after she suffered a broken leg due to bone cancer. That zoo still has an 8-year-old male tiger and plans to add another to its exhibits. 

The Minnesota Zoo has another Amur tiger, a 9-year-old female named Sundari. Zoo officials said the median life expectancy of a tiger in a zoo setting is 14 to 16 years — about the same as in the wild.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.