May 7, 2021 – After a two-year battle with an inflammatory disease of the spine, Zeus the ocelot took his last big stretch last week. While his cousins in the wild live an average of 10 years, Zeus was nearly 17 years old.
Born in Victoria, TX, at the Texas Zoo, where he lived until he was 3 ½, Zeus came to live at the SF Teaching Zoo in 2008. Over a hundred thousand students from North Central Florida walked past the ocelot habitat on field trips, and countless more on weekend and summer visits. Often these visitors would find Zeus and his companion Emma grooming each other in the sun, mewing, yowling, rubbing cheeks and shoulders.
Zeus was diagnosed with discospondylitis in 2019, a deterioration of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs, leading to pain and discomfort. Guided by our vets at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Zoological Medicine Service, great measures were taken to routinely assess his quality of life and to provide supportive care. On Monday, April 26, 2021, after determining that his energy and activity had shifted significantly in a short period of time, staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him.
The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo has been training future zookeepers for over 50 years and is the only teaching zoo on a college campus in the country accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Instructors impart a wealth of knowledge, but it’s the animals that are the best teachers. In a teaching environment, large cats like tigers or lions are too dangerous. But Zeus the ocelot, standing just under two feet tall, challenged students and prepared them for safely caring for much larger cats.
As with Zeus, zookeepers and staff are vigilant to ensure Emma, too, is comfortable in her geriatric years. You can visit Emma and our other zoo residents every day from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Donations to the SF Teaching Zoo are always appreciated and help to provide high quality care to the animals, improve their habitats, and provide education and conservation efforts to ensure a future for wildlife. Visit sfcollege.edu/zoo/support.