Minnesota Zoo: ‘Putin’ the tiger dies after heart fails during medical procedure

Putin was considered “one of the most genetically valuable Amur tigers” in a North American breeding program.

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.
Courtesy / Minnesota Zoo
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ST. PAUL -- A tiger died on Wednesday during a medical procedure, the Minnesota Zoo announced Thursday.

“It’s with heavy hearts that we share that on Wednesday, during a routine medical procedure, the Zoo’s 12-year-old male Amur tiger experienced cardiac failure,” a news release states. “Despite heroic emergency efforts of veterinarians, animal health technicians and zookeepers, he did not survive.

“This is a profound loss.”

Of his origins, the Minnesota Zoo says that the tiger was born in the Czech Republic in 2009, where he was given the name “Putin.” He spent his first six years at a zoo in Denmark before coming to the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley in 2015 via Delta Airlines.

Putin was brought to the Minnesota Zoo as a recommendation of the Amur Tiger Global Species Management Plan.


“His genetically important legacy lives on as he has sired multiple cubs, including one born in 2017 at the Minnesota Zoo,” the Minnesota Zoo said in its statement.

That cub, Vera, was born on April 26, 2017, to Sundari, an Amur tiger who had also been born at the Minnesota Zoo, in 2012. Sundari, now 9 years old, still lives at the Minnesota Zoo, while Vera was transferred to Omaha’s zoo in Nebraska in 2019.

Putin was considered “one of the most genetically valuable Amur tigers” in a North American breeding program, according to the news release about Vera’s birth.

It was in part because of that role that Putin was undergoing a “preventative health exam that included the collection of samples to assist with breeding efforts at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan.”

The Amur Tiger, the zoo says, is an endangered species, with fewer than 500 believed to remain in the wild. There are approximately 103 of these tigers in accredited zoos, the statement says.

So what happened?

“This was a routine procedure that is a vital part of our care and conservation work for tigers,” said Dr. Taylor Yaw, the Minnesota Zoo’s Chief of Animal Care, Health and Conservation, in the statement. “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. We’ll continue to learn more in the days and months ahead, and we are grateful for the support of the University of Minnesota’s pathology team for their expertise and support as a necropsy is conducted.”

A necropsy is another term for an autopsy.


Meanwhile, those who knew Putin are grieving.

“Today is an incredibly hard day for all of us at the Minnesota Zoo and we will be mourning for quite some time,” said Minnesota Zoo Director John Frawley in the statement. “Our Zoo has played a key role in global tiger conservation throughout our history and we currently are co-leaders of the Tiger Conservation Campaign, which has raised millions of dollars for tiger conservation. While this loss is great, we can be proud of our efforts — past, present, and future — to advance tiger conservation worldwide.”

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