Fabian, tiger cub with a cleft-palate, has died

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Fabian, tiger cub with a cleft-palate, has died

By Lane DeGregory, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Jun 10, 2009 01:48 PM

For Information About White Tigers Visit: http://bigcatrescue.org/cats/wild/whitetigers.htm

ST. PETERSBURG – Fabian, a tiger cub born with a cleft-palate in April, has died before a surgeon at All Children’s Hospital got a chance to repair the defect.

Fabian died late Saturday, apparently of complications from another birth defect in the animal’s esophagus, according to pediatric surgeon Michael Gallant.

The cub got a great deal of attention during the All Children’s Hospital Telethon, which aired May 30 and 31 on WFLA News Channel 8 and was the subject of a story in the St. Petersburg Times on April 30.

Fabian and his brother Chester had been born on Easter to a 19-year-old tiger named Natasha at Wildlife Rescue and Rehab, an animal sanctuary in Seminole.

The sanctuary’s director asked veterinarian Don Woodman to check on the cubs. Woodman discovered they both had cleft palates. He took them to his home, where his sons named the black and white tiger Chester, the orange one Fabian.

The vet and his wife, Susan, got up every two hours all night to thread feeding tubes into the cubs’ slender throats and trickle in drops of puppy formula.

Like humans, animals born with malformed mouths have trouble sucking. Babies can’t get the milk they need. Sometimes, when they drink, the liquid goes up their nose and they drown.

Most everyone that Woodman contacted to repair the cubs’ palates offered the same advice: Put them to sleep.

“But I couldn’t,” the vet said. “I was born with a cleft palate.”

A search on the Web site led him to Dr. Gallant, who had been repairing cleft palates in children for 31 years.

Gallant and the staff at All Children’s made plans for surgery on the tigers. They wanted to wait until the cubs were 3-months old.

A feeding specialist showed Susan Woodman how to use a special bottle with a slitted nipple to help pump in more protein.

Chester died on April 27. He may have inhaled some milk and asphyxiated.


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