Tulsa Zoo's former tiger cub, Berani, suffers sudden health decline at Washington zoo

TACOMA, Wash. - The Tulsa Zoo has learned their former tiger cub, Berani, has fallen ill.

The endangered Malayan tiger was sent to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash. in October 2012 to develop social skills along with a Sumatran tiger cub, Dumai.

Berani, now 6 months old, is in poor but stable condition following an emergency surgery Monday night, zoo officials say.

Point Defiance Zoo General Curator Karen Goodrowe Beck says Berani is in "acute respiratory distress" and is sedated.  He's receiving intensive care from zoo veterinarians with consultation from outside specialists.

The cause of Berani's illness has not been determined.

Goodrowe Beck says Berani became lethargic and refused to eat, later developing a sudden high fever Monday afternoon.  X-rays and an ultrasound were performed, checking for intestinal blockage.

"To be cautious, the veterinary team performed an exploratory surgery late Monday," said Goodrowe Beck.

Head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf said no blockage was found but Berani's gastrointestinal tract is irritated.

"We believe there may be an infectious process going on, but we're still investigating the root cause of his illness," said Wolf.  "Following surgery, he developed acute respiratory distress, and we are keeping him sedated and on oxygen therapy."

Four veterinarians, a veterinary technician and a number of other staffers attended to the 74-pound cub through surgery and staff kept watch over him through the night.

"We are saddened by the news of Berani's sudden health decline, but we are confident that he is receiving the best veterinary care at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium's state-of-the-art veterinary facility," said Joe Barkowski, vice president of animal conservation & science at the Tulsa Zoo. "We care for Berani as he is one of our own and our thoughts are with Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium during this time."

Berani was born Aug. 26 at the Tulsa Zoo.  Both he and Dumai were single births and neither was thriving alone.

Species Survival Plan officials for both Malayan and Sumatran tigers determined it would be best for the cubs to be raised together, so they could learn tiger behaviors from each other.

An anonymous zoo supporter donated the use of a private jet to transport him to his new home.

Currently, there are fewer than 500 Malayan tigers left in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching and only 55 in Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoos in North America.

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