Beloved 18-year-old tiger passes away at S.F. Zoo

Legacy lives on in contributions to science, including tiger nutrition and breeding

Officials with the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens on Thursday announced the passing of one of their longtime residents.

Leanne, an 18-year-old Sumatran tiger at the zoo, has died. She lived there for more than 15 years.

In recent years, however, her health was declining, as Leanne lived well past the life expectancy of her species, zoo officials said.

The official results of Leanne’s death are pending a necropsy.

Sumatran tigers are native to Sumatra, Indonesia and are considered critically endangered, with just an estimated 400 to 600 left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“We truly are heartbroken over the loss of elegant Leanne, the matriarch of our Sumatran tiger breeding program,” San Francisco Zoological Society CEO and Executive Director Tanya M. Peterson said. “She was a wonderful animal in all ways and was instrumental in helping us and other zoos conserve this critically endangered tiger subspecies. Not only were her markings uniquely stunning, but she was a charismatic individual who captured the hearts of millions of SF Zoo visitors during her long tenure here. She will be sorely missed.”

“Leanne was a favorite of staff because of her willingness to participate in conditioning exercises, yet Zoo visitors loved her because she would sleep on her heated rock located next to a viewing window, the zoo’s Curator of Carnivores Ron Whitfield said.

Leanne’s longtime companion, male Sumatran tiger Larry, passed away in 2020. Leanne’s offspring, three males and one female, have since been placed at other zoos across the world, including the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Berlin Zoo.

Zoo officials said because the zoo’s Animal Wellness and Conversation Center was able to work with Leanne for so many years, Leanne was able to contribute a significant amount to studies tiger breeding and nutrition.

Leanne was named after the late philanthropist and San Francisco Zoo donor Leanne Roberts, wife of well-known financier George Roberts.

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