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Tue, Oct. 15

Questions arise about euthanized jaguar

TUCSON (AP) - A jaguar captured from the wild and euthanized may not have had chronic kidney failure after all, according to the University of Arizona's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

After reviewing tissue samples, pathologist Sharon Dial of the laboratory said authorities may have moved too fast to euthanize the jaguar earlier this month.

Arizona Game and Fish officials had said the jaguar, named Macho B, had "off-the-charts" kidney failure, while Dial said the animal's bloodwork actually could have indicated dehydration.

Dial said the Phoenix Zoo, where the big cat had been taken, should have kept Macho B on intravenous fluids for 24 to 48 hours before euthanizing it. State Game and Fish officials and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed to euthanize the animal about five hours after he first got fluids. Zoo officials made the recommendation based on blood test results.

Dial said it is unproven "dogma" among some medical experts that blood levels alone can be used to "make a definitive statement that this animal will not survive."

"Nothing is absolute. There is nothing to say that he absolutely would have recovered, but I can say by looking at the kidneys that there is no structural reason why he would not have," Dial said. "I've looked at a lot of cat kidneys, not jaguar kidneys. For a supposed 15-year-old cat, he had damned good looking kidneys."

Pathology resident Jennifer Johnson said it's possible Macho B had short-term, acute kidney failure that didn't show up in the tissues.

But the lack of signs of chronic kidney failure in those tissues probably means the jaguar didn't have kidney failure at the time he was captured in mid-February.

"Animals with chronic renal failure usually don't have their coats in good shape," Johnson said "They start to develop muscle wasting or atrophy. They do not look healthy and hardy."

Shortly after the jaguar's death, Phoenix Zoo veterinarian Dean Rice said the animal probably had kidney failure when he was initially captured that would have killed him within two months - although the capture probably aggravated the condition.

Macho B's death came 12 days after its original capture in the oak woodlands of Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border. Officials said the jaguar was snared accidentally by a research project tracking the movements of mountain lions and bears. He was fitted with a radio collar and released.

But researchers tracking its movements by satellite data noticed he had slowed down significantly, had an abnormal gait and had lost weight. They recaptured it March 2 and took it to the Phoenix Zoo, where it was euthanized later that day.

A federal wildlife lab in Madison, Wis., also is analyzing the cat's tissue samples. Both labs' conclusions and the tissues will go to Linda Munson, a specialist on large cats and a professor at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She has agreed to review the data at no charge to the state.

"We encourage a full review of each and every part of the data, so we can provide the most complete review of what took place," said Terry Johnson, Game and Fish's endangered-species coordinator.

Once all that is done, Game and Fish will post all the findings on its Web site, officials said.

Until all three reports are in, it is "unproductive and potentially irresponsible" to discuss one piece of the findings individually, Game and Fish said in a statement.

"It is outrageous, unprofessional and speculative of individuals from the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Lab not leading the case to comment and offer opinions based on very incomplete information," the statement said. "Those individuals from the vet diagnostic lab had no involvement with the evaluation and treatment of Macho B when he was alive, and so their comments are not valid or appropriate."

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