A rare Amur leopard popular with zookeepers and visitors to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has had to euthanize due to debilitating, age-related health problems.
Zoo officials announced the death of Nicolai, who would have turned 19 this month, in a press release on Sunday on Facebook.
“With a heavy heart we announce the death of Nicolai, our elder Amur leopard. His health had deteriorated due to age-related complications and he recently battled kidney failure. As a result, we made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him,” the zoo wrote in its Contribution.
The Amur leopard is critically endangered in the wild. The species is the rarest and most critically endangered leopard in the world. Fewer than 100 individuals live on the borders of Russia and China, according to WWF, the non-profit international conservation organization formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund.
Nicolai came to Jacksonville Zoo from the El Paso Zoo in 2013. It exceeded the median life expectancy of its species of 10 to 15 years, said the zoo official in the press release.
His zookeepers described Nicolai as a stoic but very charismatic and sensitive cat. Nicolai loved basking in the sun, rubbing spices, and spending time on his tree and large wooden spools.
“We are proud to have offered a home to Nikolai, his partner Makarii and the seven boys he fathered here as a contribution to the AZA [Association of Zoos and Aquariums] Species survival plan for its species, “wrote the zoo.
Makarii was 18 years old and suffered from kidney failure when she died last year.
The nonprofit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is home to approximately 2,300 animals, including big cats such as leopards, lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs, and bobcats.
The zoo thanked the public for their compassion and support as it mourned Nicolai’s death.
“We thank you for your support in this difficult time for our zoo keepers, employees and volunteers – and we know that Nicolai is also very much missed by many guests.”