This is definitely a blog I was hoping not to write anytime soon. Our Persian Leopard, Ambar, whom we lovingly called ‘Cubba,’ was euthanased on Sunday. After a long life with very little illness or injury (and I might add the best set of teeth of all the big cats) Cubba succumbed to cancer related illness. A lump appeared on Cubba's leg and after a bone biopsy the worst was confirmed and Cubba was diagnosed with a bone sarcoma, cancer (check out the "Wildlife Vets & Nurses blog" for more info).
At the time of diagnosis Cubba was acting like him usual self, eating, roaring and jumping up to his favourite platform. But not long after diagnosis he stopped eating and was not his normal self, very quiet and barely moving around his exhibit. After much discussion between keepers and vet staff, we decided that euthanasia was best for this beautiful animal. Vets later discovered that his cancer had spread and was affecting other organs which affected his appetite and mobility.
Cubba was born here in 1992, thus he would have been turning a ripe old age of 18 this year. He was born with two brothers that went on to overseas zoos and Cubba remained at Adelaide. Within that 18 years Cubba has seen his far share of changes to the zoo, new faces and developed a dedicated fan base with the visitors.
I have only been at Adelaide Zoo now for 4 months and Cubba has touched my heart and was my favourite big cat, for how much personality he had. He even had the honour of being the subject of my very first blog. It was such a sad and emotional day for me but I know that what we did was best for him. So you can only imagine how my fellow Carnivore keepers are feeling, some have been working with Cubba since he was born.
So in remembrance of our beautiful Persian Leopard, Cubba, below are favourite moments or things that our current Carnivore keepers and other zoo staff/volunteers remember about Cubba. I am also inviting anyone reading this blog whom has visited Cubba or even worked with him to please add your favourite memory to the comments below, we would really appreciate hearing some great stories.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Cubba's life.
Big Cat Keepers:
Jason: I was here 18 years ago when he and his two brothers were born. They were the first litter of Persian Leopards I had worked with as a training Carnivore Keeper, so you can imagine how special he was to me. I had the privilege of working with him as he grew up and as he grew old. He will always be remembered for his shy and slightly aggressive nature but also for his softer, more playful side - something you got to see in him as you spent more time with him. Rest in peace big guy.
Chris: Cubba was such a regal chap, who more often than not chose to keep to himself. When least expected he could be a super playful young lad (much to my initial surprise)…. Or that was the way I saw him at least. In my eyes he never seemed to be an old animal, just a young animal that would always stay that way. Funny how things creep up on us really, well me anyhow in this instance in particular. I have lost some amazing friends in the form of animals and this guy definitely touched my heart so with him gone the world will surely be a poorer place, although it was best for him at the time to go….. So RIP to you big guy, you’ll always remain with me.
Matt: My favourite thing about Cubba was how he could be so shy, but when he would come into his lockaway and no one was around he would roll around on his back and carry on like a big kitten. He could be a big tough cat but when no one was looking he was deep down a big softy. Cubba will be greatly missed because he was a bit of a character at times, tended to do what he wanted when he wanted and was a pleasure to work with because it took a bit of time for him to get to know you and warm to you. You couldn’t just show up and start working with him, you need to form a bond first.
John: There are lots of things I could write about Cubba. His snarling attitude to new people, his beautiful coat, the way he would be able to hide himself almost anywhere in his exhibit and only reveal himself (when he wanted you to see him) with a flick of the tuft on the end of his thickly furred tail. But one thing that made me smile every time was hearing him roar. It came from deep down, letting all around him know he was there, happy and content as the master of his domain. You could just about set your watch to him. At 9.30am, around the end of a Big Cat tour just as the guests were feeding the Lions he would start up. What a voice!! Daylight savings messed him up a little but it does the same to all of us. RIP Ambar
Steve: Cubba was a favourite among his keepers and many other staff and volunteers at the zoo as well. He was by far the most secretive of all our big cats and I think that played a part in why he was so special to us. He could be aggressive at times, like all big cats can, yet he could also be rather playful and responsive. Most people never got to see this friendlier side to Cubba’s behaviour as he would only ‘play’ with people he had established a trusting bond with… and that took time. For me, there is one memory I have of Cubs that sums him up perfectly. Not many people know this but Cubba didn’t live, entirely, on his own. Cubba shared his den with a water skink that decided it was a good place to live. Cubs didn’t bother the skink ever. It could walk passed his paw, his nose, check out his food, no problem. Cubs let it be. He would watch it as it went by him but that was it; he never looked like hurting it. The skink is mainly seen during winter when it seeks out the warmth of the den floor and the shelter provided by Cubba’s bed board. I might just leave the den heaters on for a while to see if Cubba’s old mate shows up again in the next few months. I love that our most secretive cat had secrets of his own and that I was one of a lucky few to witness this softer side to Cubba’s nature. Rest in peace big guy.
Shawn: Cubba was one of the most “wild” and intelligent cats that I have had a chance to work with, an animal that will be sadly missed. Goodbye old mate, RIP.
Arliah: my favourite memory is the first time I was successful in providing an enrichment item to Cubba that he actually interacted with. After failed attempts with boxes covered in blood, herbs, grasses, giraffe faeces and many others I tried him on a simple item... a ball. This very large ball had been in with the Lions the previous two days so was covered in all sorts of scents. To my amazement Cubba actually sniffed, pawed at and rolled the ball for several minutes, seeming perplexed by it. Then, as him usual self, moved on and slept in his favourite spot.
Other zoo staff and volunteers:
Dianne & Paula, Vet Nurses: Paula and I had the privilege of looking after Cubba at the Animal Health Centre for 8 months, whilst his exhibit was being renovated. I will never forget the good morning greeting of a “hiss and a growl.” At first, this was quite intimidating but eventually we learnt that it was just Cubba’s way of saying hello. We will miss him terribly as it is the end of an era. Goodbye Cubba, it was an absolute pleasure to be able to work with such a majestic animal.
Lynley, Vet: It was a terribly sad day when Cubba's time came to an end. As a vet, the relationship you have with an animal is very different from that of the keepers, often we are viewed as the “bad guys” just because the animal doesn’t understand why we do things to them. It seemed however that Cubba had an understanding that we were trying to help him. He was such a beautiful majestic animal that I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with. I am so terribly sad that Cubba is not with us anymore but also happy that we were able to end his life peacefully and with dignity. All his keepers were with him and reassuring him and all had some time alone with him, to give him a special goodbye that he deserved. The amazing old age that he reached is a credit to his keepers who loved and cared for him so much. RIP Cubba.
Jason, Horticulture Dept: I have been taking care of the Big Cat section for almost three years, this includes inside the exhibits and the strip of plant life along the public side. When taking care of the plants in front of Cubbas’ exhibit, he would often watch me with those big eyes, always so interested in what I was doing. I will always remember the look on Cubbas’ face after each time I went in and trimmed back all the plants in his exhibit, usually exposing some of his hiding spots, “a look of I just had all the visitors fooled and now I have to look for new spots, thanks a lot Jason,” usually followed by a growl. Good bye old friend, RIP.
Monique, Interpretation Dept: I always smile whenever I remember Cubba’s ferocity when a vet was nearby - such a wild cat! Without a doubt he was the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen and I felt incredibly privileged to touch his gorgeous coat during his surgery. I’ll never forget that moment. Rest easy, beautiful boy.
Mary, BEEZA: I have been a volunteer for the Behind the Scenes Tours since they started four years ago and the Big Cat tour is my favourite by far. Seeing these majestic animals on a regular basis gave me the initiative to further research about these animals. In addition to seeing them on the tour I usually come down every morning to see the big cats, especially the elusive Cubba. Not too long ago I had the opportunity to feed Cubba a rib and I am so glad I had that special moment to see him up close. Goodbye Cubba, you will always have a special place in my heart.