Shock death of Banham Zoo’s much-loved tiger

PUBLISHED: 12:49 25 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:38 26 June 2020

Sveta, a Siberian tiger at Banham Zoo, has died. Pic: Banham Zoo/Ian Read

Sveta, a Siberian tiger at Banham Zoo, has died. Pic: Banham Zoo/Ian Read

Keepers at Norfolk’s Banham Zoo said they are “heartbroken” after female Siberian tiger Sveta died during a routine operation.

Sveta with her cubs back n 2013. Pic: ArchantSveta with her cubs back n 2013. Pic: Archant

Sveta was having a contraceptive implant operation and died while under anaesthetic, the zoo confirmed. Following a post-mortem examination it is thought that the cause of her death may have been due to a heart defect.

The team at Banham Zoo are waiting for further sample analysis and a full report.

Gary Batters, joint managing director at the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), which announced it is reopening next month, said: “Sveta was a beautiful and much loved part of our zoo community and her sudden death is heartbreaking for the keepers who’ve worked tirelessly during Covid-19 to care for all our animals. She will be greatly missed.”

ZSEA, the charity which runs Banham Zoo in Norfolk and Africa Alive! in Suffolk, is a partner in the European Breeding Programme for the Amur, or Siberian tiger, which is the largest of all the big cats.

Sveta pictured last year helping raise money for the zoo charity. Pic: ArchantSveta pictured last year helping raise money for the zoo charity. Pic: Archant

Sveta, who was 11 years and eight months old, gave birth to two cubs in 2013 which were fathered by her Amur tiger mate Kuzma.

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Amur tigers are one of nine subspecies of tiger, three of which are now extinct. They are endangered due to habitat loss and hunting and it is thought there are currently around 250 adults in the wild. Amur tigers live for 10 to 14 years in the wild. In captivity they can live up to 20 years, although their average life expectancy is around 14 to 16 years.

Amur tiger, Kuzma, has been on a period of loan to Knowsley Safari Park near Liverpool since August 2019 as part of the European Breeding Programme and is due to return to Banham Zoo at the weekend.

Mr Batters added: “It is especially sad that Sveta’s mate, Kuzma, when he returns, will not have the reunion with Sveta which we had all wished for.”

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive reopen on Saturday, July 4. It announced cuts of up to 70 jobs before being given the green light by the government to reopen after suffering £1.m losses in revenue from ticket sales.

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