WHITE tiger dies of kidney failure brought on by cancer

Wednesday, May 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Veterinarians determined that a rare white tiger on loan to the Oklahoma City Zoo died of kidney failure caused by lymphatic cancer, officials said Tuesday.

The tiger, named Kanu, died Sunday after exhibiting lethargy and loss of appetite for about a week.

Tissue samples from Kanu were sent to Oklahoma State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. The cancer had spread to several internal organs, including the tiger's kidneys, said Joe Alexander, dean of the OSU veterinary college.

Kanu was four. Tigers typically live 15 to 20 years.

Alexander said the tiger probably had the cancer when he arrived April 22 in Oklahoma City from the Nashville Zoo. He was not surprised that the cancer was undetected by a physical examination before the tiger's arrival.

``This is a very rare cancer in tigers, so I don't think anyone would have been thinking about this,'' Alexander said.

Sherri Huntress, the zoo's veterinarian, said even if the condition had been identified, it would have been incurable and also impractical to treat.

``They can't talk to you and they hide their symptoms very well,'' Alexander said.

Huntress said Kanu's sister, Kaliyani, and other cats at the zoo remain in good health. Kaliyani will complete her planned stay through Sept. 30.

``We're glad to know it is nothing that could affect our other tigers or animals,'' Huntress said.

Jim Bartoo, Nashville Zoo spokesman, said he believes the Oklahoma City Zoo did what it could to save Kanu.

Bert Castro, Oklahoma City Zoo's executive director, downplayed suggestions that the zoo's reputation would be damaged by the death.

The zoo came under fire after four dolphins died over a two-year from a bacteria.

Castro said there are ``legitimate questions to be asked'' about the dolphin deaths, but insisted that the zoo's overall national reputation is very good.

The average zoo loses 15 percent of its total population every year, Castro said. The Oklahoma City Zoo's mortality rate is 8 percent.