'It's so overwhelming how much love there was for him' - Shepreth Wildlife Park pay tribute to 18-year-old tiger Rana

PUBLISHED: 18:40 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:35 27 May 2017

Rana the tiger sadly passed away today. Picture: Harry Hubbard

Rana the tiger sadly passed away today. Picture: Harry Hubbard

Archant

A director of Shepreth Wildlife park said the team are devasted after their 18-year-old tiger Rana was put down this morning.

The 18-year-old tiger was put to sleep by specialist vets after suffering with chronic arthritis.The 18-year-old tiger was put to sleep by specialist vets after suffering with chronic arthritis.

Rebecca Willers runs Shepreth Wildlife Park with her family and said the whole team have been affected after 180kg Rana was a put to sleep just after 7am.

“We are devastated,” she said.

“He had been suffering with chronic arthritis for a couple of years, and was being monitored by the team and by a specialist vet – it was a decision between the team and the vet to put him down.

“His legs had reached the end. He was still up and walking around but was really wobbly – we were concerned he would get half way to a platform and then not be able to get down again.

“The team were all here, we did it at 7am so the staff who wanted to be here could, and we all said our goodbyes.”

Rana had been at the park since 2001 and his direct keepers were Andy Hemmings and Jen Simonson. The tiger’s body will undergo a post mortem as the park is legally required to do with all their animals.

Rebecca said: “We contacted anyone who had anything to do with him, if they sponsored him, or anyone who had treated him to tell them before we put the message on social media, and they had the chance to come here and see him.”

“He was just so loved. It’s so overwhelming how much love there was for him.

“He’s been here nearly 17 years, and we have people who have been here nearly as long - he was like a member of the family.”

There is one remaining tiger at the park, Amba, who is also 18.

Rebecca said: “Amba and Rana weren’t the best of friends, but they became more interested in each other near the end.”

“They did their own thing. She was the bully, he was the underdog. She would push him and he would give you a knowing look. She pushed him, but he had her respect.

“We would never introduce her to another tiger now, it would kill her.”

Rebecca commented that Rana was on a strict diet, and loved big chunks of meat, but he did have one unusual preference.

“He loved lavender – not as food, but to smell,” said Rebecca.

“So much so that we have to use a specialist disinfectant and we ordered it in lavender – he loved it. He really was a character.

“When I first came here conservation was not something we had tackled before, it was more about rescue, but Rana was integral to us starting our conservation work.

“We have children come here who start talking about tigers and conservation because of Rana, and it’s future children who would miss the tigers if they were no longer around.

“He has a legacy, and it’s something we will keep going with.”

The park cancelled its daily tiger talk today as staff were upset.

Rana will be cremated and Rebecca said there will be memorial at the wildlife park at some point in the near future.

For more information on the park go to www.sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk.

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