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City of Idaho Falls News

Posted on: May 8, 2018

Idaho Falls Zoo Loses Terminally Ill Snow Leopard

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Idaho Falls - On Tuesday, Ketu, the Idaho Falls Zoo’s male snow leopard, lost his battle with acute kidney failure.
“Ketu was a really amazing cat and actually fairly social, which is quite unique for a snow leopard,” says carnivore keeper Dallas LaDucer. “We knew the time to say goodbye would come sooner than later and we’re going to miss him.”

In July 2017, animal care staff at the Idaho Falls Zoo noticed Ketu was acting lethargic and not eating well. Medical tests revealed at only seven years old, Ketu was suffering from kidney failure.

Since the diagnosis, Ketu’s blood values have been monitored very closely and he has been given fluids as needed and overall Ketu was doing well. Unfortunately, late last week he took a turn for the worse and following a very rapid decline the blood values showed he had severe, acute renal failure.

He was treated on Friday and blood values were drawn again Tuesday to check his progress. His values were even worse. “Over the last nine months, Ketu received the best treatment, testing and professional consultations possible and his quality of life was constantly monitored, “states Dr. Rhonda Aliah, zoo veterinarian. “In fact, he far surpassed the length of time experts we consulted thought he would live.” He was humanely euthanized Tuesday.

Kidney failure is a common problem among domestic cats and a leading cause of death in household pets. Why would an otherwise healthy, middle-aged cat have kidney failure? “Unfortunately, we don’t know,” states Dr. Aliah who contacted veterinarians around the country involved in the care of snow leopards. They discussed treatment options and devised a treatment plan for Ketu which was followed for the remainder of his life. “You could say it’s similar to an otherwise healthy person getting an unexpected illness,” states zoo veterinary technician Ali Holderman. “We don’t really understand what the causes are. We treated him to the best of our abilities which extended his life far past what was expected.”

At 14 years old, Ketu’s mate Sundari is nearing the end of her reproductive years but is quite healthy and doing very well. Ketu and Sundari had three cubs, all of which were born at the Idaho Falls Zoo. The most recent cub, Tashi, was born in 2016. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) manages a series of Species Survival Plans (SSP) with the goal of maintaining captive populations that are both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Under a snow leopard SSP recommendation, Tashi moved to the Chattanooga Zoo last fall for the opportunity to contribute to the conservation of his species by hopefully someday becoming a father.

What’s next for the snow leopards at the Idaho Falls Zoo? “We will be working closely with the AZA’s snow leopard SSP to identify the best course of action for the zoo and the conservation of the snow leopard species,” says Zoo Director David Pennock.

See previous press releases:

Aging Big Cats at Idaho Falls Zoo Present Interesting Care Challenge

Media Note: For more information or to schedule an interview with city staff, contact Public Information Officer, Bud Cranor.

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