Sumatran Tiger at the Sacramento Zoo Diagnosed with Cancer

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Castro, a Sumatran tiger at the Sacramento Zoo, was recently diagnosed with lymphoma

Sumatran Tiger at the Sacramento Zoo Diagnosed with Cancer

Mar 11, 2013

Sacramento Zoo’s male Sumatran Tiger, Castro, has been diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer. After consultation with animal care staff, oncologists and ultrasonographers at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, as well as other zoos that have treated large cats with similar tumors, the decision was made to treat Castro with chemotherapy.

“While Castro’s prognosis is not good, we feel that this combination of drugs will give the best chance of curing his cancer while making sure that he has a good quality of life,” said Dr. Ray Wack, head of veterinary medicine at the Sacramento Zoo and clinical professor at the Wildlife Health Center within the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Zookeepers reported concerns to the Zoo’s veterinarians after they noticed changes in Castro’s behavior including decreased appetite and lethargy. An initial exam showed anemia and a low white blood cell count which was treated with Epogen. When Castro failed to respond to this treatment, a more extensive examination was performed resulting in the diagnosis of lymphoma. After consultation with experts, a plan has been developed to give Castro two chemotherapy drugs which will be hidden in his food.

"The Animal Care staff is doing all they can to make Castro as comfortable as possible during treatment,” said Mary Healy, Zoo Director and CEO. “Cancer can affect all our lives, human and animal, but we are going to fight this and hope Castro makes a full recovery.”

Castro, age 15, came to the Sacramento Zoo from the Audubon Zoo with his mother in 1999. He and his female companion Bahagia have four living offspring who went to other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) zoos to participate in Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plans® (SSP). One of the offspring currently resides at the San Francisco Zoo and just fathered a cub of his own.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Fewer than 500 Sumatran Tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 live in zoos around the world. The Zoo participates in the Sumatran Tiger SSPs. SSPs are cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity, and to organize zoo- and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature.

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