Sad news yesterday from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Rokan, the almost 20 year old Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), was euthanized after several years of worsening health conditions. He was an amazing big cat who sired 10 cubs during his lifetime. He should be remembered and celebrated for the contributions he made to tiger conservation efforts. You can read more about the story at the Zoo's Tiger Diary.
I had the opportunity to visit and photograph Rokan just a few weeks ago, shortly after the zoo vets and staff had implemented new restrictions, routines, and medications to help stabilize the elderly tiger. He seemed very content, lounging in the sun and patrolling his territory. You wouldn't have known by looking at him that he wasn't doing well.
This really is sad news, especially coming so quickly after hearing that the Zoo also lost the first lion cub born into their new pride. But Rokan did lead a very long, very complete life, where he inspired many to become more aware and more involved in conservation efforts for tigers, other big cats, and our natural resources in general. With him gone from the world, I hope people continue to see the importance of supporting organizations like the Zoo, as without their efforts, we may one day live in a world where there are no tigers at all.
There is a free lecture being held at the Zoo on June 8th on international tiger conservation for anyone interested in hearing about the collaborative efforts being made to combat poaching, habitat destruction, and human-wildlife conflict.
For more information on tiger conservation and what you can do to help, please check out the following links.
To symbolically adopt a tiger, check out these sites.
All photos of Rokan taken at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. ©
David Tana, May 2010