Cancer research on deceased tiger from Amarillo Zoo helping species

Amarillo Zoo staff, as well as thousands of visitors in the past decade to the Amarillo Zoo, were saddened when longtime resident Sabrina, a 16-year-old Bengal tiger, was humanely euthanized Jan. 8. However, Sabrina’s legacy is helping her species.

Sabrina battled serious health issues, including aggressive carcinoma. Sabrina would have turned 17 years old on Jan. 31. Sabrina was a staple of the Amarillo Zoo since 2011.

Sabrina’s life may help improve the lives of other tigers. 

Tissue samples from Sabrina are being used for scientific research into the cancers she battled, including aggressive carcinoma. Cancer cells from Sabrina are being studied at laboratories across the nation, including at Texas A&M University and Michigan State University.

“I don’t believe we have had this many labs interested in an animal,” said Berkeley Hilliard, Zoo Curator for the Amarillo Zoo. “A primary goal is always to help the survival of a species. The more information that research such as this can provide will help save and protect a species.”

Cancer cells from Sabrina have been tested through a process called immunohistochemistry (IHC) - a tumor identification test. It is believed Sabrina’s cancer was a type of carcinoma that results in a loss of control of cellular life within the tissues, which causes rapid and abnormal growth. The tests run on Sabrina will allow research facilities to have data for comparison into cancer research for tigers.

“The research being done with Sabrina allows for more knowledge of her species and how we can help the species thrive,” Hilliard said. “Sabrina was a joy to have at our zoo for years. It is amazing to know that she is helping other tigers live a long and healthier life in the future.”

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