Emerson’s Story

Emerson Tiger was rescued along with three other tigers (Fenimore, Mona, and Moki) from the Wesa-a-Geh-Ya facility in Warrenton, Missouri, in September, 2008. Wesa-a-Geh-Ya closed following an attack on a volunteer by a tiger named Hercules. Hercules was shot and killed by his owner to stop the attack and his body was initially hidden from local authorities. The law enforcement officer that responded to the scene was told that the volunteer was injured by a pit bull, but the owner of Wesa later corrected this statement. Wesa-a-Geh-Ya had surrendered its USDA license in 2003 (a USDA license allows a facility to exhibit animals to the public) and had been under pressure from PETA. At the time Wesa announced its plans to close, there were approximately 22 tigers, 8 lions, a cougar, and several other exotic animals on a small portion of the 17-acre property.

Emerson was distrustful of people when he arrived at Carolina Tiger Rescue, although he quickly adjusted to familiar faces. He was not large for a tiger and he showed structural problems, particularly in his front shoulders, that are most likely the result of inbreeding. His lack of trust inspired staff and volunteers to take extra steps to make him feel comfortable and safe.

Emerson’s Passing

January 23, 2020

We have suffered an incredibly sad loss this week. Many months ago, we noticed Emerson Tiger struggling with nasal discharge. Dr. Lassiter and the animal care team anesthetized him and found an abscess along the tooth root of his upper left canine. Dr. Lassiter opened the abscess,  flushed it with saline solution, and started him on antibiotics. He improved for a while, but then began to decline. During the next two procedures, we removed several teeth that were impacted by the original infection. We did multiple cultures to make sure we were using the best antibiotics, but yet again, he began to feel poorly. This week we anesthetized him and found that the original abscess was still present, but other areas had healed. We decided to do another culture and a biopsy to see if we were dealing with something more than just an infection.

After the procedure, he recovered nicely. He was sitting up, chuffling at the staff, and grooming his front legs. We all felt pretty positive about our next steps and just needed to get back the test results. Unfortunately, Emerson passed away the following morning on his own.

Emerson and his former enclosure mate, Fenimore, were both incredibly unique tigers that had quite the following. Fenimore was known for looking like a well-worn teddy bear while Emerson’s snaggle tooth gave him a very distinctive look. Emerson was certainly a mercurial tiger. Many people saw the chuffly tiger that was happy to get a treat. In contrast, others got to meet the less approachable, grumbly tiger who didn’t really appreciate men. For most of us, it likely took a bit of time to earn Emerson’s trust. Earning that trust is just part of what endeared Emerson to the staff, volunteers, and adoptive parents who were fortunate to get to know him.

Every loss we suffer is a moment for us to reflect on the work that we do at Carolina Tiger Rescue. Each animal comes with their own history and personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their individual needs. The Carolina Tiger Rescue family spends countless hours getting to know the animals and many more hours finding ways to meet their unique needs. For the past few weeks, Emerson has required extra time and attention. The staff stayed late (sometimes to 8:30pm) every day to make sure he got his evening meds at the right time. They bought different types of meat to make sure he had something that interested him. Dr. Lassiter and the team talked through treatment ideas, researched treatment options, and reached out to others for ideas. We called one another on our way home when we were thinking about ways to make him more comfortable. But the extra hours were never considered a hardship. I am confident that I can speak for the entire staff and say that we would do it all over again, even knowing the final outcome. We have been charged with their care and will never back down from a fight to make sure the animals in our care are as healthy and happy as is possible.

We appreciate, more than you will ever know, the support we receive from our community to help make our work possible. Thank you for helping us care for Emerson and all of the animals that call Carolina Tiger Rescue home.