Tiger at the Metro Richmond Zoo has Dementia - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Tiger at the Metro Richmond Zoo has Dementia

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Sad news coming out of the Metro Richmond Zoo - one of its three remaining tigers is dying.

A concerned viewer sent us video Rajah looking very frail and at times even stumbling.

The tiger is slowly fading away. Rajah is suffering from dementia and arthritis, and there's a tough decision looming for the folks at the Metro Richmond Zoo that have cared for this tiger for the last 17 years.

The Bengal tigers are quite the draw at the Metro Richmond Zoo, and if there was a star, it was Rajah - a white Bengal tiger, the zoo's first. He quickly became an icon.

But Rajah is now in the middle of the long goodbye.

"He's almost 17 years old, which in human years, that's 85 to 90," said Zoo Director Jim Andelin. "He's got arthritis. He's got dementia."

Andelin bottled-fed Rajah when he was cub. Rajah is a favorite.

"We recently did a workup. His health, his organs are functioning properly. He's eating well. He's not suffering in any way. You know, it's part of age."

He says Rajah looks so skinny because, like most older cats, he no longer holds his weight.

"It's very sad for us, because we know that we would have to make a decision if he doesn't pass on his own to euthanize him at some point," said Andelin.

A decision that may sadly be just around the corner.

"We've discussed it many times. It's just inevitable. Hopefully we won't have to make it any sooner than we have to," said Andelin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces the Animal Welfare Act and inspects zoos. A spokesperson said the inspectors are aware of the ailing tiger and have kept an eye on the situation.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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