Kuma, Tulsa Zoo's only cheetah, dies at age 16
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2012
4/26/12 at 4:01 AM
Kuma, the 16-year-old cheetah who was taken off public exhibit from the Tulsa Zoo earlier this month because of failing health, has died.
Zoo veterinary personnel attributed the cheetah's death late last week to complications from a central nervous system disorder.
About two weeks ago, Kuma was moved from his public exhibit to a smaller area after he began showing signs of neuromuscular weakness and vision and hearing loss, which are common issues for elderly cheetahs. The lifespan of a cheetah in captivity is typically 10 years.
Last week, Kuma began exhibiting signs of a degenerative central nervous system disorder with seizure-like symptoms, so zoo staff members decided to place him under anesthesia for an examination.
"The risk of anesthesia was taken into account," said the zoo's senior veterinarian, Dr. Kay Backues, in a news release, "but for an animal such as Kuma, who was having a medical crisis, the risk has to be taken to find out what may be wrong and if anything can be done to control it."
Kuma, who had lived at the Tulsa Zoo for 15 years, did not recover after the examination.
"He just didn't make it out of anesthesia," said Angela Evans, a spokeswoman for the zoo. "He's been part of the zoo family for years and years. It's sad. ... We were fortunate to have him here for so many years."
The cheetah population in zoos is small, and obtaining another cheetah would be difficult, so the Tulsa Zoo will renovate its cheetah exhibit into a space for African wild dogs, a highly endangered species.
The exhibit will be retrofitted with hopes of having the new animals at the zoo before winter, Evans said. They would be only the second canine species at the Tulsa Zoo, after the arctic fox.
The exhibit would become part of the African Savannah area identified in the zoo's new master plan.
Original Print Headline: Kuma, Tulsa Zoo's only cheetah, dies at age 16
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Kuma, the Tulsa Zoo's 16-year-old cheetah, died late last week. The lifespan of a cheetah in capitivity is typically 10 years. Courtesy