The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden says its last white tiger has died. The animal was euthanized Thursday because of age-related issues.
"Popsy," a rare white tiger, was 22 years old, making her "the oldest of her kind in any accredited North American Zoo," the zoo says in a statement. A tiger's average lifespan is 15-20 years.
Zookeepers say they'd been monitoring her health for the last several months.
"As a geriatric tiger she had several health issues we were managing and treating," says Mark Campbell, D.V.M., and director of animal health. "The animal health and care staff collaboratively concluded that we were unable to continue to maintain her good quality of life."
This video shows how zoo staff care for its aging animal population.
Popsy and her sister Erica came to Cincinnati from Nashville in 1996. Both were named in honor of the Cincinnati Pops - Erica for conductor Erich Kunzel. A zoo spokeswoman says Erica was transferred to another zoo eight years ago, and could not confirm whether she is still alive. Popsy's other companion, a male named Akere, died in December.
"Popsy was a great animal ambassador for her species for more than two decades and a favorite with our zoo guests," says one of her caregivers, Mike Land. "For the last 12 years she was the 'Queen of Cat Canyon' and she let the other tigers know it. Her presence will be greatly missed."
White tigers are not albinos, but rather carry a genetic mutation that occurs in about one in 10,000 tigers.