Tumai, one of the cheetahs at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, died Thursday night of a ruptured spleen -- after a long life that included giving birth to four cubs who are helping to protect her species.
The pathology report found a tumor that likely caused the rupture. She was 13 years old.
Female cheetahs typically live up to 10 years in human care.
Tumai was brought to the National Zoo from the Phoenix Zoo in 2004 and became a mother in the same year. Her offspring were the zoo's first litter of cheetah cubs.
She was partnered with male Amadi. Their offspring, two male and two female, were sent to live at the Cape May Zoo in New Jersey, the Wildlife Safari Park in Oregon and the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin.