‘It’s like I lost a part of me’
BY STACY BROWN
Visitors to the Genesis Wildlife Center in Nay Aug Park stared into an empty cage Wednesday, as if expecting Reba the tiger to toss around the Elmo doll she often played with to the delight of those young and old.
But as the sun beat down on the zoo area, the Elmo doll lay alone in the middle of the cage, which still contains mattresses and blankets for each of Reba’s animal roommates.
Reba, the beloved Siberian tiger, died late Tuesday. She was 15.
After Reba had been cremated early Wednesday, Katlynn, the cougar whom Reba helped raise, moved about slowly, apparently grieving for her companion. Katlynn barely mingled with the cage’s other cougar, Dakota.
“Katlynn licked Reba’s head as she died last night,” said a tearful Margaret Miller, director of the wildlife center. “This is what people don’t see: The real animals and what they’re really like.”
Ms. Miller raised Reba after she obtained her from a small zoo in Marshalls Creek in 1993.
“When I got her, she was nearly dead,” Ms. Miller recalled. “Her mother didn’t have any milk, one other cub had died, and Reba was in an incubator. I held Reba in the palm of my hand; she was so small.
“It’s like I’ve lost a part of me.”
Reba, a park favorite since her arrival here in September 2003, suffered a seizure three weeks ago and was taken to the University of Pennsylvania, where doctors performed an MRI, a CT scan and blood test, all of which failed to show why the tiger was ill, Ms. Miller said. The average life expectancy of a Siberian tiger is 8 years in the wild, but 20 to 25 years in captivity, she said.
“It was a fluke blood clot that caused the seizure,” she said.
Tears flowed freely among the workers and passers-by at the Genesis Wildlife Center on Wednesday.
“I can’t believe we won’t see her anymore,” said Jesse Walker, a Dunmore resident and frequent visitor to the Wildlife Center. “I heard about Reba dying, and I felt bad. I wanted to see if I could see her just one more time, but it was too late.”
Ms. Miller said all the animals will eventually die, but the staff provides regular, first-rate care for all of them.
While the city pays heating bills and contributes $50,000 annually and the use of the building, Ms. Miller has said she needs about $150,000 more a year to run the facility.
The center has relied heavily on donations, and Ms. Miller has said that she often pays for some expenditures out of her own pocket.
One expense Ms. Miller would not have minded paying, if it were at all possible, was whatever the cost would have been to keep Reba alive.
“She was so adorable. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone,” said Fern Norton, wildlife center volunteer. “Margaret (Miller) is devastated, as are all of us.”