Tiger cub Moka recovers, back on display at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Union-Tribune

A few weeks after undergoing emergency surgery, Moka the tiger cub has returned to health. He’s back on display with his best friend, Rakan, a Sumatran tiger cub.

And while Moka still has a way to go, veterinarians now say they expect a full recovery. That was not at all certain when Moka was found acutely ill in early March.

Both cubs can once again be seen exploring and playing at one of the Tiger Trail exhibits at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Most days, visitors can see them from 9 a.m. until about noon.

And both continue to grow. Moka, once the smaller of the two, has grown bigger than Rakan. Moka now weighs 100 pounds, while Rakan weighs 90 pounds.

Rakan, however, remains the dominant of the two.

Besides size, the two are distinguishable by their color. Rakan’s coat is darker, and his stripes are much closer together.

“Moka is healing really, really well,” Katie Christofferson, a mammal keeper at the Safari Park, said in a video interview provided by the zoo.

“The vets are very pleased with how the recovery is going,” she said. “They’re going to keep an eye on him for a while just to make sure everything’s still going OK. But they expect a full recovery.”

Moka came to the Safari Park after being confiscated at the Mexican border near San Diego on Aug. 23. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is Moka’s legal guardian, decided he was best off staying with the zoo.

At the time, Moka was estimated to be about 5 to 6 weeks old, and weighed about 10 pounds. To keep him company, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington flew in Rakan.

For a few months, the two thrived. But in early March, Moka suddenly showed signs of an acute illness. He was examined and found to have an intestinal obstruction and other ailments.

On March 6, Moka underwent an operation to correct the problems, including a herniated stomach. He’s been recovering behind the scenes under the care of vets and keepers, with Rakan also nearby to watch over his friend.

On Tuesday, zoo veterinarians said Moka had recovered enough to go back on exhibit. He returned on Thursday.

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