Goodbye Andrea

Pictured above is quite possibly the very last photo that any zoo visitor has taken of Andrea, the Oregon Zoo's rare Amur Leopard. A short while back, Andrea's veterinarians discovered that she had inoperable cancer that had spread aggressively throughout her body. I took the photo yesterday, as the zoo was closing and most people were hurrying to get to the gates. Cassandra and Bryson and I stopped by to see if we could see her and she was sleeping right next to the glass where the visitors could see her, in a sheltered area that I assume resembles a cave. What is striking about her exhibit was that visitors could literally be within inches of her, separated by a thin glass wall. With her at the same level as you are, within this alcove that could accomadate maybe 2 people at a time, this made for an extremely intimate visit with a big cat. Yesterday, while Cassandra was walking with Bryson I stayed for about 5 minutes with this cat, just looking at her, just the two of us. I already knew she was very, very sick but, even if I hadn't already known, one could look at her and see how thin she was and realize that she was not long for this world. I felt very sad, knowing that she was so sick and likely near death. I felt that I had to take some photos of her, knowing that she would soon be gone. So I snapped several pictures using a slow shutter speed, but they were too dark, I didn't want to disturb her with my flash, so I tried bouncing the flash off of the interior of the little hut I was in, but that just cast an odd reddish glow on her. Finally, I snapped off one image using a direct flash. Fortunately, this didn't disturb her sleep, but I felt bad for using my flash directly on her. The zoo says that there are only about 50 of these cats left in the world. Now there is one less. Andrea was euthanized today at the Oregon Zoo after she hadn't eaten for four days and was probably in too much pain to continue on much longer. We are all poorer for this loss.

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