Beloved penguin and tiger pass away at Saint Louis Zoo


ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis Zoo is mourning the loss of a penguin and tiger who both passed away last week.

Enrique, a southern rockhopper penguin who became famous for wearing therapeutic boots, was euthanized on Dec. 3 at the age of 30 due to a recent decline in health.

As he aged, the zoo said Enrique began showing signs of advanced arthritis. A special pair of therapeutic boots helped alleviate some discomfort. Recently, his condition worsened, and the pain could not be managed through veterinary intervention.

Marija Elsen, the zoological manager of birds at the Saint Louis Zoo, said Enrique’s “easy-going demeanor will be deeply missed” by the public and his keepers.

“Enrique was a patient and gentle bird that had just the perfect mix of spunk and independence,” said Elsen. “He always had one of the most desirable nests that he tended to with great care.”

Zoo staffers are also grappling with the death of Waldemere, an Amur tiger who passed away on Dec. 5. Like Enrique, Waldemere suffered from age-related health issues, including joint disease. The tiger also recovered from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

After his recovery, Waldemere experienced a loss in appetite and became lethargic. A team of veterinarians treated him, but the tiger continued to lose strength and passed away at the age of 18.

A necropsy later revealed malignant cancer cells that appeared to have affected many of his internal organs. 

“Waldo was a big, handsome male who tended to be more socially independent than other tigers,” said Steve Bircher, curator of carnivores at the Saint Louis Zoo. 

Waldemere was born at the Denver Zoo and moved to the Saint Louis Zoo when he was 8 years old. He was the oldest living male tiger in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.

 “He was truly an ambassador to his species and will be missed by his keepers and the community,” said Bircher.

The life expectancy for a male southern rockhopper penguin is 25 years and 16 years for a male Amur tiger.

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