Racine Zoo's last tur dies

Tavek, the West Caucasian tur from the Racine Zoo

The Racine Zoo on Friday, July 2 announced the death of one of its most beloved animals – Tavek, a West Caucasian tur.

The zoo said in a news release that Tavek died June 29. He lived at the top of tur mountain and was a favorite of guests who loved to watch him climb around on his mountain or scratch his back across one of his many toys.

Tavek was born at the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park on May 18, 2005 and moved to the Racine Zoo in October of 2006 at just over a year old. At just over 16 years old, Tavek far outlived the average tur life expectancy of 12 years. He was the final tur living at the zoo.

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The tur had exhibited signs of arthritis for years that had been managed by the zoo’s expert animal care team, the news release said. In the latter half of June, his condition rapidly progressed, leading to loss of appetite, and the decision was made to humanely euthanize Tavek to ensure a comfortable end of his days. 

"Tavek was our majestic king of the mountain. He was always one of the first animals I saw when starting my day, on top of the mountain, watching over the Zoo," said Angie Sagert, the zoo’s animal care supervisor and Tavek’s primary caretaker. "He was a great dad and sired two offspring during his time here." 

Tavek’s role as an ambassador to West Caucasian tur, a species few have even heard of, was critical to bringing attention to the little-known species. With only about 2,000 West Caucasian tur remaining in the wild and their population decreasing rapidly, they are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

May, West Caucasian tur from the Racine Zoo

May, West Caucasian tur from the Racine Zoo

Tavek was preceded in death by his lifelong mate, May, who passed away in December of 2020. The two were inseparable, often sitting together atop the mountain watching over guests at the Zoo. In the evenings, often after the zoo closed, the two could be seen frolicking and playing together across their mountain. 

"Tavek is an animal that I had worked with and known from the start of my time as a keeper here in 2008, and he left a hole that will be hard to fill," says Sagert. "He will truly be missed, but I find some peace knowing he will be back with May now." 


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