Adelaide Zoo’s oldest Sumatran tiger has been knocked out with a general anaesthetic for a health check before she turns an impressive 22 years old.
She had a health check at the zoo’s Animal Health Centre, which allowed vets to closely inspect the big cat for the first time in a decade.
Vets checked the animal’s liver and kidney function as well as her teeth and claws, which can grow into the tiger’s pads.
“Doing a clinical health check on a tiger is not that dissimilar to doing a health check on a domestic cat in private practice,” Zoos SA veterinary Doctor Dave McLelland said.
“It’s just that this one is going to cause you a lot more injury if it wakes up.
“It’s a matter of keeping a safe anaesthetic so that the animal itself is nice and healthy, and at the same time, we don’t want our vet staff placed in front of obvious risks.”
Anaesthetic was delivered via a dart to the 80-kilogram animal and had to be closely monitored because it can pose a risk to large animals.
Giraffes, for example, do not typically undergo anaesthetic due to the health risk.
“It’s just that this one is going to cause you a lot more injury if it wakes up.”
Zoos SA veterinary doctor Dave McLelland
Dr McLelland said Kemiri was in reasonable health for a tiger in its early 20s.
“She does have a little bit of arthritic change in her back, and some dental issues in her mouth which we’ll have to keep an eye on,” he said.
Kemiri was born in 1994 at Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney and arrived at Adelaide Zoo the following year.
When she turns 22 she will become the second oldest tiger in Australia.
The life expectancy of Sumatran tigers in captivity is 20 years, compared to just 12 in the wild.
Wild tiger populations are at an all-time low, with less than 400 Sumatran tigers estimated to be left in the wild compared to approximately 100,000 a century ago.