Tiger dies at San Francisco Zoo

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Officials at the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens sadly announce the passing of their Sumatran tiger, “Leanne,” yesterday. Leanne had lived at the San Francisco Zoo for over 15 years and was an important ambassador for her species. At 18 years and 8 months, she was considered a geriatric animal, surviving more than eight years at her species’ lifespan. The results of a necropsy are pending although his health has recently declined.

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

Leanne, named after the late San Francisco Zoological Society donor and philanthropist Leanne Roberts (the first wife of billionaire George Roberts), was born at the Toronto Zoo in 2003 and moved to SF Zoo & Gardens in 2006. During her 15 years here, she had two male companions, but it was “Larry”, a man from Sumatra, who was her longtime companion before his death in 2020. Their daughter, “Jillian”, rose to local fame when the late comedian Robin Williams auctioned off his naming rights at a fundraiser in 2014.

Leanne was a devoted and successful mother from the start. In 2008, Leanne had a litter of three male cubs, who have since fathered 11 cubs together at the various zoos they were eventually transferred to, including Berlin Zoo. One of these children later had five grandchildren, making Leanne a “great-grandmother.” Leanne and Larry were the parents of “Jillian”, born in 2013 who recently moved to the San Diego Wild Animal Park to raise her own litter.

The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens is home to the Animal Welfare and Conservation Center, which specializes in non-surgical alternatives for animals and has worked with Leanne to condition her for “awake” ultrasounds throughout her pregnancies. The knowledge accumulated from working with Leanne over the years has contributed greatly to what is known about the breeding and nutrition of tigers.

“Leanne was a staff favorite because of her willingness to participate in conditioning exercises, but zoo visitors loved her because she slept on her heated rock next to a viewing window. Even in in her old age she loved to play, and one of her favorite toys was a green boomer ball,” said Ron Whitfield, curator of Carnivores.

Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) are native to Sumatra, an Indonesian island. According to the IUCN Red List, approximately 400 to 600 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, and they remain on a declining trend.


This press release was produced by San Francisco Zoo and Gardens. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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