By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – One of the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo’s most famous animals died this week, leaving an empty enclosure and more than a few broken hearts.
Sal, a hulking Bengal tiger who would wow spectators with his size and antics, was put to sleep Tuesday after a lengthy illness.
He was 19.
A tiger’s life span is about 10-15 years in the wild and 16-20 in captivity, according to numerous online sources.
“His kidney and liver were shutting down, and he was not processing food anymore,” said park owner Dan Franklin. “The USDA wanted us to put him down last year, but he still had life in his eyes last year. He wasn’t ready.”
Despite his progressive illness, Sal continued to enjoy several more months at the Buffalo Park. But the long, cold winter finally snuffed out the spark in his eyes.
Franklin said he looked at Sal last week and realized the tiger was no longer happy. It was time to say goodbye.
Dr. Sonya Bryan with All Animal Hospital in Tupelo put Sal to sleep. And the tiger will be stuffed and put on display.
“He was so much a part of the park,” Franklin said. “He needs to be seen. He’d be happier that way.”
Sal’s passing marks a sad point for the Buffalo Park and Zoo, which has enjoyed heightened success and publicity after the double escapes of Oliver the monkey in 2007.
Tears still flowed Wednesday for Sal, whom Sheila Franklin described as a member of the park family. Franklin is Dan Franklin’s wife and an active member of the team.
The park has no immediate plans to purchase another tiger, but Dan Franklin said he’ll do so after installing larger, natural-environment enclosures later this year.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.