KARACHI: Karachi Zoological Gardens lost its 16-year-old Bengal tiger, Alex, to kidney failure on Friday, leaving behind tigress Rachel with whom he enjoyed a close companionship.
According to zoo director Faheem Khan, Alex and Rachel were a perfect couple. They had not been together for long but the bond between them was unusual. Both of them would take care of each other and if one of them is away for long, the other would become restless. Their love defied normal animal behaviour, said Khan.
“They would share the food peacefully, which is very unusual to regular cat behaviour,” he told The Express Tribune. “They hardly fought and, when they did, it was usually because of disturbances caused by the heat or the visitors.”
His demise has left Rachel sad, according to Khan. The tigress has not eaten as much as she used to. “She keeps roaming around her cage and, when she sits or lies down, her eyes have a dejected look,” said Khan.
Alex was brought to Karachi from Lahore in 2004. “He has been one of the main attractions of the visitors at the garden for 13 years,” he said.
“Alex’s disease was diagnosed after he stopped eating earlier this week,” said the director. “We called in the best vets to treat him but he could not survive.” According to Khan, the average age of cat species is usually 18 in captivity.
Safari Parks additional director Kazim Hussain, who is a veterinary surgeon, explained that kidney diseases in tigers come with age. “It is a common illness associated with old age, just like human beings.”
Apart from Rachel, Alex has left behind several young visitors at the zoo to mourn his death. “I used to visit them [the tigers] once a month with my father,” said 10-year-old Salman. “Today, I only saw one tiger in the cage and she is not in a playful mood.” The innocent child was unsure how the tiger could die. “They are so strong. Aren’t they?”
Meanwhile, the zoo officials have already sent in a request to bring in a new male tiger to the zoo. “You know how long sarkari [government] work takes,” said Khan.
Earlier on April 11, the zoo lost three young black bucks deer in a fight.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.