MELBOURNE, Fla. – Brevard Zoo announced Friday afternoon that their nearly 21-year-old jaguar, Mulac, had died after battling chronic kidney disease and arthritis, zoo officials said.
According to News 6 partner Florida Today, Mulac had begun to show an increased difficulty walking the week of Jan. 16, zoo officials said in a news release posted to Brevard Zoo’s website Friday.
“Because temperatures had dropped, we closely monitored Mulac’s condition over the past few days to see if there would be improvement when the weather warmed up,” said Lauren Hinson, director of animal programs.
In the days prior to his death, veterinary staff began doing laser therapy sessions to manage his arthritis, officials said. They also gave him anti-inflammatory medication to reduce his pain.
On Thursday, his condition took a turn for the worse, and zoo staff made the decision to euthanize him, officials said. They added that he had “far surpassed the median life expectancy for his species in both human care and in their natural range.”
For several years prior to his death, zoo staff had been giving Mulac regular quality of life assessments due to his age, during which they monitored any health issues, medications, mobility and more, officials said.
They had been treating his chronic kidney disease for a few years, which the quality of life assessments allowed them to catch before he could begin showing symptoms of the illness. They were also treating him for arthritis.
Because of his kidney disease, zoo staff struggled to prescribe medications for his arthritis, officials said. However, they made other adjustments, such as changing his diet to one that kept him at an ideal weight and limited the stress on his joints, as well as renovating his habitat to add steps and a platform.
Despite the health problems, Katie Milbocker — one of his keepers — said he was “the most cooperative and tolerant animal” she’s ever trained.
“Mulac was truly one of a kind,” Milbocker said. “He was clumsy and sweet and always came when keepers called him over.”
He could be playful, too, with keepers recalling how he would roll over repeatedly while waiting for his food or pose with crossed paws.
“He was a happy, perfect cat and will be missed every single day,” Milbocker said.
Mulac, a resident of Brevard Zoo for almost nine years, sired two cubs with the zoo’s other jaguar, 18-year-old Masaya, officials said. One cub, 7-year-old Philomena, resides at Memphis Zoo in Tennessee and has had two cubs of her own. The other cub, 7-year-old Jeannie, resides at Baton Rouge Zoo in Louisiana.