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Vilas Zoo Siberian Tiger Dies After Tooth Surgery

For more information contact:

Jim Hubing, Zoo Director, 266-4733 or
Sharyn Wisniewski, 267-8823

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 5/30/2002

Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo officials, with sorrow, today reported that one of the three Siberian tiger cubs, born at the zoo in May of 1999, died Wednesday evening of complications relating to tooth surgery. The surgery had been performed Friday, May 24.

Three-year old “Mendota” was scheduled to be transferred to the Utica, New York, Zoo as approved by the Species Survival Plan. A routine exam discovered that her lower canine tooth had been fractured. A team, including veterinarians from the Henry Vilas Zoo and the UW School of Veterinary Medicine planned to repair the damage, as had been done successfully with zoo polar bears via root canal and capping the tooth, said Jim Hubing, zoo director.

UW veterinary dentist Dr. John Sowers discovered that the tooth had fractured into the jawbone and routine dental repair became a major procedure. The surgery took approximately three hours. Mendota, during her recovery, received constant care from her zoo keepers, zoo veterinarian Dr. Mike Petersen, and UW School of Veterinary Medicine specialists. When recovery from the anesthesia did not progress as expected, intensive medical therapy was initiated, said Hubing.

“Mendota was anesthetized for the surgery using medications safely used on tigers all over the country,” said Hubing. “However, while we do not know the exact cause of death, it appears that she suffered a serious complication from the anesthesia.” Despite great efforts on the part of the veterinary staff and keepers, Hubing said Mendota died peacefully Wednesday. An autopsy will be performed by the Wisconsin Animal Health Laboratory in Madison.

“We ask that you remember Mendota as a playful and beautiful tiger who excited adults and children alike to the wonders of the animal world. The zoo wishes to thank zoo keepers Shane Elsinger and Julie Elsinger, and Dr. Mike Petersen, Dr. Jennifer Hess, Dr. Jean Paré, Dr. George Coronado, Dr. Dave Brunson, and Dr. John Sowers for their devoted and professional care,” said Hubing.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk said she is saddened by the loss of the rare species of Siberian tiger, but grateful to zoo staff and veterinarians, many of whom stayed with Mendota around the clock throughout after the surgery.

The planned transport of Wingra, Mendota’s sister, to the Utica zoo is on hold, pending results of the autopsy. A third sister, Monona, will remain at the Vilas Zoo.

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