GMA:Tiger to Get Surgery

For the first time ever, a cardiologist will attempt to perform open-heart surgery on a tiger cub.

Karma, the five-month-old Bengal Tiger cub from the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, is set to undergo surgery within two weeks. The cub suffers from a congenital heart defect that is routinely repaired in human infants, but it is believed that this is the first time such surgery will be performed on a tiger.

The open-heart surgery will close an existing opening in the wall between the cub’s two ventricles and enlarge an artery to increase the blood flow.

The refuge rescued Karma from an exotic animal breeder in the Midwest when he was six weeks old. Along with his sister and mother, Karma arrived at the refuge dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from other minor ailments.

The two other cats have recuperated and are in good health. Without the surgery, the cub would likely die within six months, said Brian Werner, executive director of the Tiger Missing Link Foundation.

A Surgical First Renowned cardiologist Dr. Charles D. Frazier, Chief of Congenital Heart Surgery Services at Texas Children’s Hospital, will perform the surgery.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that surgery to correct a congenital heart defect has been done on a tiger,” said Dr. Sonya Gordon, a veterinary cardiologist, from Texas A&M University who will be a part of the surgery team.

“Karma’s prognosis is good, but the road to recovery will be long,” Werner said. Following the surgery, Karma will recuperate for a short time at Texas A&M and then will return to the refuge, where he will receive follow-up care. The cost of Karma’s medical care plus a new habitat for the cub is expected to approach $60,000. Bank of America is accepting donations for the Tiger Missing Link Foundation.

The Tiger Missing Link Foundation (TMLF) is a 501-C-3 non-profit agency engaged in animal rescue, conservation and education. TMLF is supported solely by private donations. As part of its mission the Foundation operates the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge located in Tyler, Texas.