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2 beloved Saint Louis Zoo animals die

Amur tiger Waldemere and southern rockhopper penguin Enrique were both in their golden years, the zoo said, and were loved by keepers and visitors.

ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis Zoo is mourning the loss of two beloved animals: an Amur tiger and southern rockhopper penguin, who went viral for his custom shoes.

The zoo shared the news Wednesday afternoon, saying both animals were in their golden years and enjoy life beyond the typical expectancy for their species. 

Rockhopper penguin Enrique was almost 30 years old, the zoo said. The median life expectancy is 25. Over the last year or so, he’s been showing signs of aging, with eye issues and advanced arthritis.

Zookeepers were able to alleviate some of his pain and put some pep back in his step this year. The zoo reached out to a New Jersey company that specializes in therapeutic shoes for animals, and soon after Enrique had a pair of custom-made boots that fit over his webbed feet.

Those snazzy shoes soon caught the eye of adoring visitors. A family from mid-Missouri shared Enrique’s story online, which quickly went viral with more than 31,000 shares on Facebook.

The shoes allowed Enrique to “live a more comfortable life,” the zoo wrote in a tweet back in June. However, the penguin’s health deteriorated recently.

“Enrique began showing signs of discomfort that could not be managed with veterinary intervention,” the zoo shared Wednesday. He was humanely euthanized last Friday.

Zoo staff members called him a dynamic member of the zoo’s Penguin & Puffin Coast who’ll be missed.

“Enrique was a patient and gentle bird that had just the perfect mix of spunk and independence. He always had one of the most desirable nests that he tended to with great care. The penguin colony will be a little quieter without his unique call. Enrique's easy going demeanor will be deeply missed by the animal care staff and community," said Zoological Manager of Birds Marija Elden.

Amur tiger Waldemere, affectionately known as “Waldo” by keepers, passed away Sunday after what the zoo described as a brief but serious illness.

Waldemere was one of the Saint Louis Zoo’s big cats that contracted COVID-19. The zoo said he recovered but then suddenly lost his appetite and became lethargic. Veterinarians worked to treat him but he passed away over the weekend. A necropsy showed malignant cancer cells that appeared to affect many of his internal organs, the zoo said.

"Waldo was a big, handsome male who tended to be more socially independent than other tigers. He liked to do his own thing, and his keepers took on the challenge to create interesting enrichment that he would explore," said Steve Bircher, Kevin Beckmann Curator of Carnivores, Saint Louis Zoo. “He was truly an ambassador to his species and will be missed by his keepers and the community.”

Waldemere was 18 1/2 years old and was the oldest living male Amur tiger in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. Male tigers in zoos typically live to about 16 years old.

He was the father of two cubs at the zoo. His mate Kalista passed away in March. She was nearly 20 years old and was the oldest living female Amur tiger, the zoo said.