Generic filters
Exact matches only
9:00 am - 5:00 pm


The Zoo Atlanta community is deeply saddened to share news of the passing of Chelsea, a 20-year-old female Sumatran tiger. The Veterinary and Animal Care Teams had been monitoring and treating the geriatric tigress for chronic health conditions, particularly kidney disease. As there was not a path to recovery for Chelsea, the teams made the difficult decision to euthanize her on April 10, 2024.

“This is a devastating loss for Chelsea’s care team and for Zoo Atlanta. Chelsea was a magnificent cat with a tremendous legacy here at the Zoo,” said Sam Rivera, DVM, Vice President of Animal Health. “While decisions like these are always heartbreaking and are never easy, our teams had reached a point where we knew that this was the most responsible and compassionate decision for Chelsea.”

Sumatran tigers, which tend to have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years in the wild, are considered geriatric in zoological settings after the age of about 15. At nearly 21, Chelsea was well beyond the typical lifespan for her species.

Chelsea had lived in Zoo Atlanta’s John P. Imlay Tiger Habitat since 2006. In 2011, she gave birth to cubs Sohni and Sanjiv – the first Sumatran tigers born at the Zoo in more than a decade. Both Sohni and Sanjiv now live at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited organizations and have both since had offspring of their own.

The Sumatran tiger is one of the world’s rarest tiger subspecies. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sumatran tigers are believed to number fewer than 400 in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They face serious pressures from habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, particularly as a result of deforestation for palm oil plantations, and illegal poaching for their skins and bones, which are believed by some cultures to have medicinal value. Tigers are also killed by humans when they approach local villages and prey on livestock.

Zoo Atlanta is also home to a young male Sumatran tiger, Bob, who recently arrived at the Zoo in November 2023. Like all tigers, Sumatran tigers are a solitary species, with males and females generally spending time together only during breeding. As such, and due to Chelsea’s age, the pair were not introduced for breeding and did not live together.

All six remaining tiger subspecies are critically endangered or endangered, and three subspecies are recent extinctions. The Bali tiger, Caspian tiger and Javan tiger all went extinct in the 20th century. The South China tiger, which has not been documented in the wild since the 1980s, likely now only exists in human care.

Zoo Atlanta is one of only a small number of zoos to pursue and attain membership in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil™ (RSPO). Zoo Atlanta and many other AZA zoos are vocal advocates for encouraging the use of only sustainably produced palm oil, the unsustainable harvest of which threatens the survival of Sumatran tigers, Sumatran orangutans, and many other species.

Zoo Atlanta is a participating partner in the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, a coalition of AZA zoos and aquariums, nonprofits, and corporate organizations working to raise awareness of the illegal wildlife trade and reduce consumer demand. The Zoo’s Corridor to Change pathway highlights the global impact of the trade, with an interactive display educating guests about the pervasive nature of wildlife trafficking as detected at major airports around the world, including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Importantly, Corridor to Change also sheds light on the role of social media in fueling the wildlife trade and the negative impact on animal populations that can result from the sharing of content featuring wild animals in unsuitable care situations or selfies of inappropriate and unsafe encounters with animals such as primates and large cats.

As is the case with all animal deaths regardless of age or health condition, a necropsy, or the non-human equivalent of an autopsy, will be performed through the Zoo’s partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine.


Rachel Davis
Director of Communications

Gavin Johnson
Public Relations and Communications Specialist

About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education, and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to hundreds of animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas in the only zoo in the U.S. currently housing the species; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include the African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, meerkats, and rhinos; Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama; and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Plaza. For more information, visit

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl