One of the most difficult roles of working with living animals is the fact that the time will come when you will outlive them.
Today I write to tell you of the loss of one of our oldest and most respected members of our zoo family Pam the Siberian Tiger. On Saturday June 23, 2012 (a few weeks shy of her 24th. birthday) Pam was euthanized due to her deteriorating health with failing kidneys and heart problems coupled with tendon shrinkage and her claws growing into her pads. The vet would have to use bolt cutters to cut her nails and remove them from the pads of her feet and as time went on it became more and more frequent that we would have to tranquillize her and do this procedure.
This decision was not made lightly or easily but with the undeniable knowledge that she was in pain and we had to do what was right for her, but very hard for all of us.
Pam came to us in 1997 with her son Baikal who would leave us in 2008 to go on to successfully breed and not only add to the small population of studbook tigers breeding in captivity but to make Pam a grandmother.
When Pam arrived in 1997 she was eight years old and past the age of producing any more litters but it was at our insistence that she accompany her son and live out her life here at the Cherry Brook Zoo.
To be honest we did not know how many years that would be as a tiger can die as young as ten and usually in their early teens. But Pam would prove to be the exception to the rule living long past her expected lifespan.
This early spring seemed to be very difficult on Pam and she had trouble walking as her hind end was going on her and we tried medication and despite being thin she seemed to come around. But that was to be her final rally and as we carefully monitored her we knew her time was growing short.
Understand we act as professionals but there is not a keeper or staff member that was not there to say their final goodbyes to Pam including our Chairperson Alice O’Neill who has known Pam since her arrival. It was equally difficult for our zoo vet Dr. Justason to make that final injection but as she quietly slipped away from us we knew she was at peace.
We all have our own memories of Pam but mostly are left with her strength and endurance.
She will leave a void in our lives but indelible images of her life with us will remain. Her cage mate since 2010 Nyla stayed beside her door and knows that something has changed in her life but she too will carry the lessons that Pam taught to her in her last years.
Pam’s bloodline lives on through her son Baikal and the cubs he has produced.
Who knows, maybe in the future one of his cubs will return to live at the Cherry Brook Zoo and the circle will continue.
Rest in Peace Pam Born Bronx Zoo July 1989 Died June 23, 2012