SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Officials at San Francisco Zoo & Gardens sadly announce the passing of its Sumatran tiger, “Leanne,” yesterday. Leanne had lived at San Francisco Zoo for over 15 years and was an important ambassador of her species. At 18 years, 8 months, she was considered a geriatric animal, outliving by more than eight years her species’ life expectancy. Results from a necropsy are pending though her health had been recently declining.
“We truly are heartbroken over the loss of elegant Leanne, the matriarch of our Sumatran tiger breeding program,” said Tanya M. Peterson, CEO and Executive Director of San Francisco Zoological Society. “She was a wonderful animal in all ways and was instrumental in helping us and other zoos conserve this critically endangered tiger subspecies. Not only were her markings uniquely stunning, but she was a charismatic individual who captured the hearts of millions of SF Zoo visitors during her long tenure here. She will be sorely missed.”
Leanne, named after the late San Francisco Zoological Society donor and philanthropist, Leanne Roberts (the late first wife of billionaire George Roberts), was born at the Toronto Zoo in 2003 and transferred to SF Zoo & Gardens in 2006. Over her 15 years here , she had two male companions, but it was “Larry,” a male Sumatran, who was her longtime companion before his passing in 2020. Their daughter, “Jillian,” achieved local fame when the late comedian Robin Williams auctioned off her naming rights at a fundraiser in 2014.
Leanne was a devoted and successful mother from the beginning. In 2008, Leanne had a litter comprised of three male cubs, who have since sired 11 cubs all together at the different zoos they were ultimately transferred to, including the Berlin Zoo. One of these offspring later had five cubs, making Leanne a “great-grandmother.” Leanne and Larry were parents to “Jillian,” born in 2013 who recently transferred to San Diego Wild Animal Park to breed her own litter.
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens is home to the Animal Wellness & Conservation Center, which specializes in non-surgical alternatives for animals and worked with Leanne to condition her for “awake” ultrasounds throughout her pregnancies. The accumulated knowledge from working with Leanne over the years contributed greatly to what is known about tiger breeding and nutrition.
“Leanne was a favorite of staff because of her willingness to participate in conditioning exercises, yet Zoo visitors loved her because she would sleep on her heated rock located next to a viewing window. Even 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, on Indonesia island. According to the IUCN Red List, an estimated 400-600 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, and they remain on a declining trend.
This press release was produced by San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. The views expressed here are the author’s own.