Zoo Miami: 2 animals from extremely endangered species have died

12-year-old Malayan tiger, 44-year-old Indian rhinoceros died Monday

By Jacey Birch - Anchor/Animal Advocate

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. - It's been a rough week for the zookeepers and the animal handlers at Zoo Miami. The zoo announced two animals, both from extremely endangered species, had died on Monday.

Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill reported that Tevy, a 12-year-old Malayan tiger, was found dead Monday morning.

Zoo officials said Tevy had been sick for the past few weeks and was not improving. She appeared to be jaundiced and lethargic.

"It was a bit of a shock to us and a severe blow because she was part of a breeding program with our male tiger, a highly endangered cat," said Zoo Miami Ambassador Ron Magill. "We had already introduced them, they had accepted each other's presence and we were looking forward to having baby tiger cubs for the first time in decades."

Dangerously close to extinction, there are only about 500 Malayan tigers left in the wild. Cats in captivity can live to be 20-years-old but at just 30, Tevy suddenly became sick and suffered liver failure.

"We're trying so hard to maintain these endangered species in captivity because that's what the zoo is," said Magill. "The zoo is an insurance policy against a very uncertain future in the wild."

Tevy, however, was not alone. An elderly Indian rhinoceros named Mohan spent most of his life in Miami before he passed away this week.

Zoo officials said he was a 44-year-old lifelong bachelor who loved carrots. He is also part of an extremely endangered species.

Magill told Local 10's Jacey Birch the story of Mohan being the first rhino he fed when he came to work at Zoo Miami 33-years-ago.

"That rhino was almost 45-years-old," said Magill. "There are only four rhinos on record that have lived past forty, only four and he was the oldest presently alive."

Mohan's declining health was not a surprise, due to his advanced age. Zoo officials said it was hard to handle as the announcement of his death was made less than four hours after the news of Tevy's death.

"This isn't Disney World," said Magill. "We don't have animatronic animals out here that always keep on going. Fact of life is everything that lives is going to one day die."

However, the circle of life is continuing on at Zoo Miami. Titan is a seven-month-old baby giraffe at the zoo, along with Ayala, a baby Indian rhino, and 10-month-old boy cheetahs.

Zoo leaders said they will go back to the drawing board and search for a new tiger to make the mating process possible. They said it's part of their "Species Survival Plan."

The zoo said it's going to be a long and difficult process to find a potential compatible mate, move the animal to Zoo Miami, introduce her to the male tiger, make a connection and hopefully make little tiger cubs. It could still be years before any babies are born.

Copyright 2013 by Local10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.