Siberian tiger cub dies at Illinois zoo

By Azam Ahmed
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 12, 2006, 7:00 PM CST

Danya, a 14-month-old Siberian tiger cub, died of suffocation from a crushed windpipe over the weekend at the Glen Oak Zoo in Peoria, zoo officials said Tuesday.

The injury was likely inflicted by another tiger, which could have been the result of playing that grew out of hand, said Yvonne Strode, the director of the Glen Oak Zoo.

The incident occurred sometime between 9:30 and 11 a.m. Saturday, according to Strode, who said the zoo’s curator found Danya’s body.

Danya, a 150-pound tiger cub on loan from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, had been sharing the enclosure with two tiger sisters, Kyra and Nika, both 17 months old.

The sisters had arrived in mid-October, around the same time as Danya. They were on loan from a zoo in South Carolina. The facility they were sharing with Danya is made up of four 12-by-12-foot connected dens.

The three tigers had been slowly getting acclimated to one another since their arrival, Strode said. At the time of the occurrence, they had been left alone for a brief time after weeks of familiarization techniques conducted at the zoo, Strode said.

A previous episode of violence among the tigers had occurred once before when the three were left together overnight and zookeepers discovered scratches on Danya the next morning.

They immediately placed a barrier between Danya and the sisters until they grew comfortable and relaxed around each other. After two weeks apart, they were allowed physical contact again.

Following six days of harmless play, the animals were left alone for 11/2 hours Saturday morning, a standard procedure, according to Strode. The curator returned and discovered Danya dead.

Though zoo staff members are upset about Danya’s death, Strode said the book is more or less closed on the incident.

“Right now everything is very fresh in our mind, but we’re concentrating on the two tigers we still have,” she said.

The tiger enclosure was expected to be a big attraction at Glen Oak Zoo, where the park is undergoing major renovations, estimated to cost more than $32 million.

“We certainly felt the three tigers would have been a great attraction,” said Strode, but “the zoo still expects the number of people that visit to be very strong.”

aahmed@tribune.com

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