Erie Zoo News & Updates

Senior Animal Care

Posted on June 2nd, 2023 at 12:05 PM

The Erie Zoo recently welcomed a 14-year-old Amur tiger, Nuri, to our family in May of 2023. She is currently off exhibit, going through our routine quarantine period to ensure her health and the health of our other Amur tiger, Tikva, is properly monitored and protected during this transition. Nuri’s story is a rather interesting one, and it highlights the role that the Erie Zoo, and many other zoos across the nation, serve in the name of conservation.

Nuri has lived at two zoos in the past; Born in 2009, Nuri spent 7 years at the Milwaukee County Zoo then joined the Mesker Park Zoo in 2016. This month Nuri joined the Erie Zoo and we expect she will live out her remaining years as part of the Zoo family. The process of moving animals from zoo to zoo is complex and takes thorough consideration. They are done with great insight and planning, all focused on the safety and well-being of the animal; meeting its specific needs while allowing the zoos to continue their important conservation work and support AZA’s Species Survival Plans (SSPs) and meeting their conservation goals.

Not only does it take careful planning to move an animal, it takes a lot of thought, consideration, and effort to receive a new animal. The Mesker Park Zoo is currently under a renovation and modernization project (similar to what the Erie Zoo is currently undergoing) and a portion of this project includes work on the behind-the-scenes areas; Mesker Park plans to renovate this area to better meet the modern zoological standards. Nuri’s behind-the-scenes habitat was included in this project. To limit stress to the tiger and ensure that the extensive renovations proceed smoothly, Mesker Park decided it was best for Nuri to be relocated to another zoo where she could peacefully live out the rest of her years as an ambassador for her species. After working with AZA’s Species Survival Plan, Mesker Park contacted the Erie Zoo, toured our facilities, and felt confident that the Zoo team had the appropriate habitat and expertise to provide the top-notch care necessary for an elderly tiger. The Erie Zoo was proud to have been chosen by Mesker Park and AZA to provide just that.

With a number of senior animals in the care of the Erie Zoo, it has raised some questions from Zoo supporters as to why we are choosing to care for another animal in its elderly years. We felt that Nuri’s story opens up a great opportunity to discuss a role that the Erie Zoo proudly plays and give our supporters some insight into the care and passion involved in caring for Zoo animals over their entire life.

The Erie Zoo’s vision is to be our community’s resource for premier animal care and conservation. The commitment that we make to all our animals is to provide top-level care and this extends to the last years of their lives. Our facility over the years has cared for many senior animals, showing them top-level care until their final days. Just this past year we lost two big personalities of the Erie Zoo family—Nala, the African lioness passed at age 24 and Viktor, our male Amur tiger passed at 17. Both of these animals lived well beyond their average life expectancy and that was no coincidence. The Erie Zoo animal care and veterinary teams’ main priority is the wellness of these animals. The seniors in our care are closely monitored by their keepers; they watch their daily food intakes, work to train the animals so that they can easily look at their bodies for signs of any type of concern, and train with them so that the vet team can easily take blood, urine, and other types of samples. When an animal is aging the animal care and the veterinary teams form a committee where on a regular basis they meet to further develop and adjust the care plan for that elderly animal. Changes can be made to the plan, which could include increased medical care and/or physically modifying their habitat such as adding adaptations, like a ramp, to the habitat to ensure easier of mobility around the space.

Ayden, our senior llama who resides in the Children’s Zoo, has severe arthritis. When his arthritis first began to flare up, the animal care and the veterinary teams where formed a committee and decided that Ayden should be moved into his own outdoor area to ensure that he wasn’t hurt when the other llamas played. However, due to the fact that llamas are herd animals, the committee also made the decision that he would live in the habitat across from the other llamas, so he still had the sense of being with his herd, without the threat of being injured. Ayden continues to be routinely monitored and has other accommodations made to his space and daily routine to ensure that his senior aliments are properly managed and he is comfortable. You will often find Ayden resting his legs in his habitat, resting upon a soft bundle of hay provided by his keepers.

Our expertise and top-notch animal care have allowed us to practice outstanding medicine and care for our senior animals, and we are proud to have been the chosen home for animals such as Nuri. This opportunity allows us to offer this magnificent tiger healthy and enriching years ahead as she continues to age.