The beautiful Aysha sadly passed away on the evening of Wednesday 2nd October at the age of 21. Her health had deteriorated over recent days to the point where the Zoo had, together with their expert veterinary team, decided that it was time to say goodbye to her.
Aysha and her brother Diamond, came to the Isle of Wight Zoo in the Autumn of 1998 when they were just three months old. Although Diamond passed away five years ago, Aysha lived to the grand age of 21, a great age even for a tiger living in human care. In the wild their life expectancy would be much lower.
Charlotte Corney, founder of the The Wildheart Trust remembers their first meeting: “I’ll never forget the day that Aysha and her twin brother Diamond arrived. She jumped up to greet me and came up to my knee. With her signature scrubbed off nose and cheery chuffs she took me captive from day one.”
Aysha was quite petite, but a beautifully marked individual, and was one of the Zoo’s friendliest tigers. Her friendly nature and quirky ways made her a firm favourite with Zoo visitors. Saying hello to her and getting a friendly chuff has been a vital and very engaging part of their visit for so many. The Zoo’s Education Manager Tracy Dove commented: “Schools used to love that Aysha would see or hear them coming down to her enclosure. She would stop whatever she was doing and run over to see us, chuffing and rubbing her head along the fence. She would happily chuff into the microphone and broadcast her thoughts to the entire audience.”
Aysha was full of joyful energy and although much smaller than her brother, Diamond, she used to boss him around. She would sneak up behind him and sweep his back legs from under him. It was very funny to watch.
Caz Lorek, Interim Animal Manager has cared for Aysha since she began working at the Zoo nine years ago. “I remember getting back to the Zoo after spending 9 months away while at university. I went down to see Aysha, it was a busy summer’s day and she was playing in the pond. I caught her eye and she ran towards me, water splashing everywhere, then started chuffing and head rubbing the bars. The crowd were thrilled to see the connection we had. She remembered me, which was lovely and very heart warming.”
In a world of critical conservation and animal welfare The Wildheart Trust is working to inspire and empower people to take positive action to protect our planet and the animals we share it with. Aysha helped convert that care into action. In the words of Charlotte Corney: “Aysha put the A into ‘ambassador’. She sparkled and shone her way into each and every heart. We were all fortunate enough to meet her and now she leaves a smiley, stripy scar on those same hearts.”
The Isle of Wight Zoo asks that you please pay tribute to her by helping them to continue to help others like her both in the wild and in human care. Our big cat family will now pick up her flaming baton and run with it. Aysha, our forever tiny tiger, may have left small boots to fill but she’s one big act to follow.
If you have pictures or memories of Aysha that you would like to share, then we invite you to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.