Emerson, a rare Sumatran tiger at Zoo Atlanta, died Wednesday night, according to zoo officials. Photo: courtesy Zoo Atlanta

Emerson, rare tiger at Zoo Atlanta, dies

Emerson, a 10-year-old male Sumatran tiger and a member of one of the rarest big cat species in the world, has died at Zoo Atlanta.

The tiger had been showing signs of lethargy and a declining appetite, zoo officials said Thursday in a statement.

Veterinarians performed an emergency diagnostic exam Wednesday night in an effort to determine the cause of his illness, but Emerson did not survive.

 “This is a devastating loss for the Zoo Atlanta family, not just of this magnificent individual we were only just beginning to get to know, but for the entire Sumatran tiger population,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, vice president of collections and conservation.

“Tigers are now more numerous in zoos than they are in the wild, and it is critical that we preserve their populations. The loss of any individual is very difficult.”

Emerson came to Atlanta last May from the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi. Officials with the tiger Species Survival Plan had hoped to pair Emerson with Chelsea, Zoo Atlanta’s 14-year-old female.

The smallest of all tigers, Sumatran tigers are one of six remaining tiger subspecies, all of which are critically endangered or endangered. Three tiger subspecies, the Caspian tiger, Javan tiger and Bali tiger, all became extinct during the 20th century. 

 A necropsy will be performed through the Zoo’s partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Preliminary results should be available in coming weeks.

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