One of Belfast Zoo’s best-loved animals has died.
Jack the white tiger came to Belfast from Colchester Zoo in April 1998 along with Jill, the zoo’s other tiger.
The pair shared an enclosure for nine years until Jill died of kidney failure in 2007.
Experts at the zoo took the decision to have 17-year-old Jack put to sleep after monitoring his health for several weeks.
“In tiger years Jack lived a long life but suffered a rapid deterioration in health over the past few weeks,” said zoo vet Michael Griffith.
“He became less active, suffered rapid weight loss and developed a tumour on his throat which had significantly grown in size.”
As a hybrid sub-species, Jack was not part of a breeding programme, but proved a massive hit with visitors to the zoo.
“Jack was a firm favourite with public and staff and will be sorely missed,” said curator Julie Mansell. “Some of our visitors may remember Jack because of his fondness for swimming in his pool. This was one of his favourite pastimes.”
Jack’s death means the zoo currently has no tigers, although zoo manager Mark Challis said there was a “long-term commitment” to bring them back to the zoo.
“We are assessing our options,” he said.
“Imagine a world without tigers; there are currently estimated to be less than 400 Sumatran and Amur tigers remaining in the world.
“Tigers are in such a perilous state in the wild that the Sumatran tiger may become the first major mammal extinction of the 21st century.”