July 20, 2022
A message from Assistant Director Kathryn Bertok:
I come to you with sad news from the sanctuary. We have been closely monitoring Yanaba Tiger for an upset stomach and lack of appetite. A bit over a week ago, we got her under anesthesia so that we could perform a physical and give her fluids, stomach medications, and an enema to help make sure things were moving along. After a few days, she ate some food, and we were hopeful that she was on the mend. Unfortunately, the next day, she was back to looking uncomfortable and unwilling to take meds. After discussing our options with our vet and completing an ultrasound, we decided it was time to complete an exploratory abdominal surgery. During the surgery we found a length of intestines that was damaged from an intestinal blockage. We proceed with removing the damaged area, but Yanaba arrested and we were unable to revive her.
Yanaba’s presence will be greatly missed. She was not always the easiest tiger to care for. I’m pretty sure one of her favorite games was ring-around-the-rosie – she would hide behind her den box, moving around it, as the keepers looked for her during rounds. She was also not inclined to be helpful when it came to taking meds. Often, she would make the keepers work for it. They had to entice her with something particularly yummy, or perhaps give her some fun enrichment, or even pretend to leave her enclosure so that she would come up and maybe take meds from them. But all of these shenanigans just meant that the first time she chuffled at you, it would take a second to sink in that she was interacting with you! When she was excited about playing with a burlap bag, you took an extra minute to enjoy watching her.
While it took a bit to figure out exactly what Yanaba wanted out of life, seeing her happy and content made it all worth it. We had to figure out where she wanted to live – the answer: further back in the sanctuary in the woods, but not too isolated. We had to figure out what tiger she wanted to interact with – the answer: Naveen. We had to figure out her favorite toys – the answer: burlap, making Pawcasos, and pumpkins! It’s funny to think of Yanaba as playful, since she could be such a serious tiger, but she absolutely shined when it came to enrichment. She got such great joy out of everything that came her way!
No one would say that Yanaba was an easy tiger. She made the keepers work for her cooperation. They had to be creative and put in the extra time with her. It makes her loss just that much harder on the staff. I know that the keepers are going to miss her silly calls, also known as her “duck” call. I know that the back of the sanctuary is going to feel very different for a long while. I also know that she will forever leave her mark on all of us. All of us have a favorite memory. For me, it will be watching her “meet” Naveen for the first time. She found a tiger that she not only could live with, but actually enjoyed being around. I remember standing in front of her as she looked right past me at Naveen and chuffled. I couldn’t have been happier for her!
While my heart is broken, I am comforted knowing we have a team so willing to come together to care for the animals. Without hesitation, everyone dropped what they were doing and were ready to help. Sometimes helping is bringing in food so that we can prepare for a long night. Sometimes it’s changing the set-up in our vet area at the last minute. No matter what is needed, I know that our family is willing and prepared to help. I couldn’t be more grateful for our staff, volunteers, and adoptive parents.