On Dec. 29, one of Roosevelt Park Zoo's tigers, Koni, passed away. Koni, pronounced like "Connie", had been a special part of the community of Minot since 1993.
"(Minot has) kids who've grown up seeing her," Brandi Clark, vet tech and general coordinator for the zoo, reminisced. "Koni is definitely going to be missed."
During the Souris River flood of 2011, Koni, along with many of the other zoo animals, was sent to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas and had been there since. She was due to return to Minot this spring when the exhibit is expected to be ready to reopen.
Koni was a friend to many at the zoo and familiar to people of all ages in the community. She’d been a favorite for more than 15 years.
One keeper did go down to Kansas to visit the displaced animals. "They were all doing wonderfully," Clark said, gratefully. "They (Tanganyika) have done us a tremendous amount of favors. They're great."
Koni was born in Omaha, Neb. and arrived in Minot in 1993.
"She came here when she was really young," Clark recalled, "3 1/2 or so." Koni was in Minot almost her whole life.
Tigers typically live in isolation in the wild, according to Clark, but in captivity, because of a consistent food supply, they can be housed together, usually male and female.
"We got her and another cat at the same time, and they had four cubs between the two of them."
Two of the cubs were white, the other two tawny-colored.
Koni's mate passed away in 2009 after having lived a long life; 18 to 20 is considered quite old for a tiger. Koni's nearly 22 years is older still.
They're not rushing to replace Koni. Rather, Clark said they'll be looking for a mate for their current female.
"We didn't want to be in a hurry when Koni was still around."
Although they're still waiting for conclusive results, they feel pretty sure Koni died of old age. Just the same, it's a heartfelt loss.
Repairs at the zoo are going well. "We're anxious to be back open," Clark said.