Czar, the Siberian tiger at the Oregon Zoo, was euthanized August 10, ten
months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Czar was first diagnosed with oral melanoma in early October 1999 and
underwent a series of radiation treatments to slow the growth of the
tumor. Oral melanomas had not been reported in tigers. However, in
domestic dogs and cats they are very aggressive tumors which metastasize
quickly and do not respond well to chemotherapy. The goal of the
radiation therapy was not to cure Czar, but to slow the growth of the
tumor, allowing him a longer, pain free life. Zoo veterinarians recently
found that tumor had recurred next to his upper canine tooth and had
spread via lymphatic vessels to the roof of his mouth.

Czar's attitude and appetite had been in a very slow decline over the
past several months, according to zoo veterinarians. "Generally, he's
been waxing and waning, but there has been a downward trend to the
cycles," says veterinarian Lisa Harrington. "It seems that Czar's
attitude had diminished more acutely over the past 10 days or so."
Keepers reported that it was more and more difficult to get Czar to eat.
For the last few days they warmed small amounts of meat and pushed them
into his mouth. Keepers commented that he seemed to only be taking the
food to please them, and between bites would rub his mouth with his paw
and "rachet" his jaw from side to side.

Czar came to the Oregon zoo in 1989 as a 5-year-old. He was hand raised
with a Labrador retriever and keepers think he picked-up a lot of
personality traits from the dog. Veterinarian Mitch Finnegan called him
"an easy going, affectionate cat with a very engaging personality."

Zoo Director Tony Vecchio said, "Czar was an ambassador for his species.
During the years he lived here, he did his job of inspiring many people
to care about the plight of wild tigers and other endangered animals.
"Over the last 10 months, the public outpouring of sympathy and concern
for Czar has been remarkable. Many get-well cards were sent from children
around the region," Vecchio said.

Two new Siberian tigers will be coming to the zoo from John Ball
Zoological Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan, although a date has not been
set for their arrival. They are siblings, born in October 1998.

Siberian tigers are one of the world's most endangered mammals. Fewer
than 400 wild tigers are thought to exist in their remaining territories
in the Russian Far East.

The zoo plans a simple memorial for Czar this weekend. Visitors will have
the opportunity to take part in an ancient Asian tradition of writing
messages on strips of paper attached to little bells. The messages will
then be tied in a tree in "Tiger Terrace" at the zoo. Message strips will
be available for anyone who wants to participate all weekend and through
next week

This story and photo is here with permission by Tony Vecchio, Director of the Oregon Zoo.
Many thanks to the Oregon Zoo for Czar's story and photo by Michael Durham.