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Goodbye to Sparky, Zoo Atlanta’s elderly and rare Sumatran tiger

Sparky leaves behind Chelsea, Zoo Atlanta's other Sumatran tiger, who at 19 is also elderly. It was hoped that they would produce offspring, but that didn't happen.


Sparky, a Sumatran tiger at Zoo Atlanta and one of a tiny number of his species still living, has died.

At 18, Sparky was considered geriatric and was dealing with osteoarthritis and kidney disease. According to zoo officials, the old tiger recently experienced a broken tooth, which aggravated his other conditions.

“Given the slow deterioration of his condition, his age, and his poor long-term prognosis, the teams made the difficult decision to euthanize him,” the zoo wrote in a statement. Sparky was born in 2004 at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo and transferred to Atlanta in 2018. The hope was that he would mate with Chelsea, a female Sumatran tiger at Zoo Atlanta. Though both Chelsea and Sparky have produced offspring with other partners, their planned union was unsuccessful. At 19, Chelsea is also considered geriatric.

It is believed that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers alive in the wild, all of them on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The critically endangered species is a victim of habitat destruction, mostly from the clearing of forests for palm oil plantations, and of poaching. Tigers are also targeted when they approach villages or livestock.

According to Zoo Atlanta, “All six remaining tiger subspecies are critically endangered or endangered, and three subspecies are recent extinctions. The Bali tiger, Caspian tiger and Javan tiger all went extinct in the 20th century. The South China tiger, which has not been documented in the wild since the 1980s, likely now only exists in human care.”

Here is a local story on Sparky's arrival in Atlanta:

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