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Isle of Wight Zoo,Yaverland Seafront
Sandown, Isle of Wight
PO36 8QB

Update on Zena

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Zena, our beloved 21 year old white tiger, has been put to sleep following age-related health issues. Earlier in the month we released information about Zena’s declining health and suggested that her supporters may like to visit her. On Friday 24 November we made the difficult decision to say "goodbye" to her.

Zena arrived at the zoo, from Longleat Safari Park, aged just three weeks old, after she was rejected by her mother. The zoo’s CEO, Charlotte Corney, took on the role of foster mum caring for Zena together with her older sister, Zia. In her youth, Zena relished her beach walks and took pleasure in trying to 'kill’ the crashing waves by pouncing on and biting them. At one year old she was successfully integrated with Zia and the two sisters, often described as 'chalk and cheese’, lived very happily together. Zena was very much the 'tom boy’ of the two never missing an opportunity to chase a tractor or muddy her white coat. 

Unsurprisingly, Zena had an extensive fan-base and touched the hearts of everyone who met her. She was a magnetic and affectionate character who played an unquantifiable role in attracting and inspiring people, from all walks of life, to care and learn more about the plight of tigers as a species. She shot to global fame 10 years ago when she stole the limelight in the ITV series, 'Tiger Island’ which followed the removal of her right eye, due to glaucoma, and laser surgery on her remaining eye.

White tigers are not albinos, or 'snow tigers’, they are a naturally occurring 'leucistic’ form (caused by recessive genes) of the ordinary orange colour. The last known wild white tiger was shot in Central India in 1958. Zena, and the few remaining white tigers in human care around the world, are all direct descendants of a male white tiger captured from the wild in 1951. White tigers have been subjected to inbreeding, which can result in health issues, and reputable zoos choose to follow guidelines not to continue to breed them for this reason. Zena will be deeply missed from this day onwards and will always be remembered as one of the founding animals of the zoo’s charity, 'The Wildheart Trust’.

Her foster mum, and CEO, Charlotte says: "Zena curled up and went to sleep in our hearts for the last time today, and that’s where she will remain. She was surrounded by deep affection from her big sister, Zia, her tiger friend, Aysha, and her human family both here at the zoo and within the wider community. We will learn to live without her safe in the knowledge that her legacy will forever burn brightly through our commitment to provide lifelong homes and friendship to tigers and other big cats who are dependant on human care". We would like to thank everyone who supported and cared for Zena for helping us to ensure she that had a life filled with warmth and love.