The Birmingham Zoo’s resident 18 year old Malayan tiger, Kumar, has been diagnosed with kidney insufficiency. Due to the diligent husbandry training with Kumar by the Zoo’s dedicated Animal Care Professionals, he voluntarily participates in his own medical care, allowing the Veterinary team to get routine blood and urine samples during training sessions. Those samples showed elevated kidney values, indicating kidney failure.
Kidney insufficiency is a frequent finding in aged cats such as Kumar, affecting both domestic and exotic cats. There is no way for the Veterinary team to predict how rapidly Kumar’s kidney failure will progress. Kidney insufficiency is not curable, but since it was detected early, there is a better chance of managing it in Kumar. The Veterinary team is performing regular follow-up voluntary blood collections to monitor his kidney values. At this time, Kumar is not showing any clinical signs of kidney insufficiency. It was solely found through preventative health monitoring made possible by the Predator team working closely with the Zoo’s Veterinary Staff.
Because several of the health issues that may arise with aging can be anticipated, the Veterinary team works closely with the Animal Care Professionals, who train many of the animals to participate in husbandry behaviors. The Zoo’s Veterinary team has the responsibility of caring for animals of all ages, from neonates to geriatrics. “Similar to people, as animals age we see more problems with their teeth, signs of arthritis, sight challenges, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer,” said Director of Animal Health, Dr. Stephanie McCain. “It parallels humans. As they get older, the likelihood of these issues arising increases.”
Kumar made headlines in 2017 when he was diagnosed with a malignant sarcoma, a type of cancer that invades soft tissues, that was able to be completely removed. Like kidney failure, cancer is not uncommon in aged animals such as Kumar.
Kumar is 18 years old and was born on April 20, 1999 at the Cincinnati Zoo. He came to the Birmingham Zoo on June 19, 2001. Kumar is a Malayan tiger, a smaller species with black stripes on reddish-ochre fur. Malayan tigers are found throughout southern and central parts of Malay Peninsula with their range extending into southern Thailand. Over the last one hundred years, tiger populations have decreased dramatically. Deforestation and hunting has reduced the number in the wild from hundreds of thousands to between 600-800.
Malayan tigers in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited Zoos are managed by the AZA Species Survival Plan ®, a committee consisting of North American zoo professionals that ensures the survival of the species. The average lifespan of a Malayan tiger in the wild is 15 years.