Baby Russian tiger struggles for life after frostbite and surgery

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INQUIRER.net file photo

At the end of last year, a local fisherman found on a river bank in the southern Primorye region, an emaciated tiger cub, around four to five months old, suffering severe frostbite and injuries.

The fisherman reported the find to wildlife keepers who evacuated the cub to a rehabilitation center, the Amur Tiger Center said.

“External examination showed that she was severely exhausted as a result of which the tip of her tail was frozen,” the center said, adding that the puppy’s lower jaw also necrotized after an injury.

The tigress, who weighed about 20 kilograms (44 pounds), about half normal, when found, underwent an intense rehabilitation course and gained about 10 kilograms in preparation for surgery. The dead tip of her tail was also severed.

Late last week, the puppy underwent a 2.5-hour operation, in which doctors transplanted healthy tissue to repair her jaw.

The surgery was successful, but it is too early to make any predictions and say whether it will be possible to release the cub back to the wild, the Amur Tiger Center said.

“The most important thing right now is to stop tissue necrosis and save the tiger’s life,” said Sergei Aramilev, director of the center. “People are doing the best they can.”

Russia and China are home to the big cats that are also known as Siberian tigers and are listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

There are about 600 tigers in Russia, said Pyotr Osipov, head of the Amur branch at WWF.

“Heavy snowfalls and changes in temperature have significantly complicated the lives of tigers this winter,” Osipov told AFP, adding that two frozen dead tiger cubs were recently found.

President Vladimir Putin has personally championed the protection of the Amur tiger.

In 2010, Putin, then the country’s prime minister, organized an unprecedented 13-state summit that aimed to double the big cat’s population.

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