Adelaide Zoo

Cat-astrophe avoided for tiger cub Ketambe

Keepers and veterinary staff at Adelaide Zoo are wiping their brows after revealing that male tiger cub Ketambe had a close call with a bone lodged in his intestine. With only 400 Sumatran Tigers thought to exist in the wild the loss of just one tiger could be disastrous for their survival.

“Our dedicated keeping staff noticed Ketambe wasn’t his usual self,” said Chad Crittle, Assistant Curator of Carnivores and Ungulates at Adelaide Zoo.

“Ketambe wasn’t eating or drinking and was very quiet, which is unusual for a one-year-old tiger cub! Come the next morning he still wasn’t right. After a second inspection by the veterinary team it was decided to take him up to the Animal Health Centre for a closer look,” continued Chad.
Zoos SA Senior Veterinarian Ian Smith suspected that Ketambe had some kind of blockage, leaving him no option but to open the big cat up to operate.

“I searched through Ketambe’s intestine until I found the blockage and removed it. Seems he over-indulged during the Christmas break and ate a bone that got stuck.

“Once the bone was removed it was time to stitch him up. Getting the stripes to match up wasn’t an issue. The skin joined back together nicely and I was happy with how it went,” said Ian who admitted while the procedure was lifesaving it wasn’t operation nerves that he felt. “Any nerves came from the weight of expectation in the room that Ketambe would survive,” finished Ian.

While the removal of the bone meant that Ketambe was likely to recover, the issue that then faced keepers was his reintegration into the family unit.

“It’s not always easy to reintegrate an animal taken away back into family groups,” said Chad. “However, after careful planning and a slow reintroduction, Delilah, Marni and Susu welcomed Ketambe back. We were relieved, to say the least,” said Chad.

Ten days on from his big operation and Ketambe is once again back in the habitat at Adelaide Zoo. “You won’t be able to see his operation scar as it’s really small,” says Chad. ‘But Ketambe is easy to spot. He’s really big and by far the biggest cub. He’s taken after his Dad, Kembali who is one of the biggest male Sumatran Tigers in Australasia.

“Come and see this incredibly brave boy and his beautiful family,” continued Chad. “Find out how we are helping to save this species from extinction and how you can help too.”

Ketambe, Susu and Marni were born at Adelaide Zoo on 21 December 2022.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered in the wild with less than 400 thought to exist in the wild making every single tiger in conservation organisations like Zoos SA vital to their future.

As a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) the management of Sumatran Tigers is carried out by a specialised species coordinator. Sumatran Tigers move between institutions to ensure the genetic diversity of tigers and the best in health and welfare.

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For images, vision and interviews with Chad Crittle, Assistant Curator Ungulates and Carnivores, Adelaide Zoo and Ian Smith, Senior Veterinarian, Zoos SA, click here. Please credit Ketambe images: Adrian Mann

For operation images, click here