The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo announced on Facebook that Ussuri died April 23. The animal didn’t show signs of abnormalities until April 20 when a member of its animal care team noticed swelling on one side of his neck. The zoo put the leopard on medication to reduce inflammation, but when it didn’t change he was scheduled for an exam April 23.
During a veterinary exam, cancer was found to be the cause of the swelling. It had spread to the back of his throat as well as the lymph nodes in his neck. Biopsies were taken to confirm the diagnosis, but the zoo said he stopped breathing during recovery.
A necropsy confirmed the leopard had extensive cancer. The exact type will be determined after a report is complete.
“We are comforted in knowing that Ussuri lived a full, happy life in his retirement here, and that this cancer did not result in any prolonged discomfort,” the zoo said in its Facebook post.
He came to the zoo in January 2016 at the age of 15 so he could spend his retirement there. The median life expectancy for Amur leopards in the species survival plan is 18.1 years. Ussuri lived to be 18.4.
“His keepers say he was a very talkative cat and they will miss his morning and evening greetings that were half meow/half growl. They were honored to work with such a charismatic animal and will miss his beautiful spirit,” said the zoo.
Ussuri’s death comes shortly after two sister sea lions, Grits and Fishbone, died. Fishbone died April 17 during a medical procedure. Grits was euthanized on March 30 after falling ill. It’s unknown what caused their deaths.