Beloved tiger dies, leaves lasting legacy at Popcorn Park (PHOTOS)
There's just a little less majesty at the Popcorn Park Animal Rescue and Sanctuary.
On Nov. 6, the zoo in Forked River lost its tiger, Dante, to old age.
Dante had survived cancer — though cancer claimed the life of his companion, Gina, in 2009. He recovered from a punctured cornea in his time with the zoo as well, Dr. Jonathan Bergmann, Popcorn Park's director, said.
"He got over all those hurdles but you can't beat age, and age takes its toll," Bergmann said.
Dante was 19 years old.
Bergmann told New Jersey 101.5 Dante was "just a really good guy. He's just a really friendly guy."
In a letter to the community, Popcorn Park said Dante "was surrounded by love and he knew it."
"Knowing this can and will give those of us who remain with such loss and sadness the courage and strength to carry on with the same dignity as Dante," The Park wrote.
The full letter is below, reprinted with permission:
There are times when animals let you know “I have done my best, but now it’s time.” Our zoo veterinarian, Dr. Jonathan Bergmann, along with all of his caretakers helped Dante pass to a place of comfort and peace. These are very difficult times so we must reflect back on his life and remember all that came before this sad day.
In 2002, at the age of 6, “Don and Jean” were two tigers rescued from a canned hunt in Texas. This is where exotic animals are hunted in an area without escape for “sport” and trophy. They came to Popcorn Park refuge to never again be hungry, abused or uncertain of their very survival. We named them Dante and Gina, which fit them much better.
They were devoted to each other giving love, support and confidence to begin this new life. It didn’t take long for them to realize they had nothing to fear. In 2009, we lost Gina to cancer leaving Dante to carry on without her. He was able to bring a smile to all visitors and communicate his love and contentment by chuffing, which sounds like an exotic type of purring or talking. Dante had a harsh beginning. He was declawed inhumanely and in the years that followed left bone infection that required surgery. There were dental issues which also which also were taken care of. Dante developed cancer and went through chemotherapy. He had an accidental injury to both eyes a year apart requiring surgery to repair a tear in his cornea leaving him sigh impaired. Dante had the very best veterinary care from our zoo vets Dr. Paluch and Dr. Bergmann. The many specialists at NorthStar Veterinary Hospital providing CT scans and surgery over these past 13 years. We are so grateful to them all.
When people use words like courage and strength, we sometimes think of single acts to describe a moment or an event. But there are times when people and animals like Dante exhibit these attributes time and time again. Some are faced with an illness or injury which tries our ability to overcome and in doing so remain ourselves and continue to smile or chuff and find the sun on very grey days. Knowing how deeply you are loved cannot cure disease but it can and did give Dante comfort. Dante was surrounded by love and he knew it. Knowing this can and will give those of us who remain with such loss and sadness the courage and strength to carry on with the same dignity as Dante
– Dan Alexander contributed to this report