Zoo says goodbye to beloved Amur tiger Mikhail

One day shy of his 20th birthday, Mik was the oldest of his extremely rare subspecies

The Oregon Zoo was deeply saddened today by the loss of one of its most beloved residents — Mikhail, a 300-pound Amur tiger whose playful exuberance belied his extreme old age.

"As old as he was, we knew, realistically, that this day would be coming," said Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's Amur cat area. "But even when you think you're prepared for it, you never really are."

Just one day shy of his 20th birthday, Mikhail — or Mik for short — was the oldest Amur tiger in any zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and he was considered to be among the oldest on the planet. He was humanely euthanized today following a decline in health related to his advanced age, Cutting said.

Wild Amur tigers typically live around 10 to 15 years, and the median life expectancy in zoos is 16 years for males, according to the AZA, which has established a Species Survival Plan for this highly endangered cat.

"Until recently, Mik was so playful and active you could easily think he was a much younger cat," Cutting said. "That's a huge testament to the care he received here. I couldn't be prouder of our keeper staff for everything they did to ensure he had a good life right up to the end."

To encourage activity and keep Mik's joints limber during his later years, caregivers taught the big cat to play "soccer": batting and chasing a big plastic ball along the floor of the moat surrounding his habitat.

Mikhail was born Oct. 31, 1998, at the John Ball Zoological Garden in Grand Rapids, Mich., and moved to the Oregon Zoo on Sept. 12, 2000.

Cutting said Mik's loss is all the more keenly felt coming so soon after the passing of Borris, another much loved and extremely old Amur cat, who died earlier this month.

Wild Amur tigers are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and poaching. Around 500 are believed to remain in their home range. The Amur tiger species derives its name from the Amur River, which runs through the region of southeast Russia to which this subspecies is native.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 | hova.najarian@oregonzoo.org

Kelsey Wallace | 503-220-5754 | kelsey.wallace@oregonzoo.org