The zoo added in its statement that staffers first began taking care of tigers more than four decades ago, adding that 44 tigers have been born on the premises during that time.
“Today is an incredibly hard day for all of us at the Minnesota Zoo and we will be mourning for quite some time,” Zoo Director John Frawley said.
Putin arrived at the Minnesota Zoo in 2015 and was undergoing a “preventative health exam that included the collection of samples to assist with breeding efforts” connected to measures aiding the survival of the Amur tiger species, which the zoo said is “globally threatened”.
They added that there are around 103 Amur tigers in North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Fewer than 500 Amur tigers are believed to be living in the wild, the zoo said.
“His genetically important legacy lives on as he has sired multiple cubs, including one born in 2017 at the Minnesota Zoo,” the zoo said.
“This was a routine procedure that is a vital part of our care and conservation work for tigers,” the zoo’s Chief of Animal Care, Health and Conservation, Dr Taylor Yaw, said in a statement. “We plan weeks ahead for these types of exams. All necessary precautions were taken, and the team did everything within their power to save this animal.”
“We’ll continue to learn more in the days and months ahead, and we are grateful for the support of the University of Minnesota’s pathology team for their expertise and support as a necropsy is conducted,” he added.