On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Birmingham Zoo’s 17 year old Malayan tiger, Kumar, underwent a procedure to remove a malignant sarcoma tumor, and to have a complete physical performed to assess whether this cancer had spread. The Zoo is optimistic for Kumar’s prognosis because both chest radiographs and abdominal ultrasound did not show any evidence of the cancer having spread to other organs. Once that was determined, the Zoo’s Veterinarians proceeded to surgically remove the tumor on Kumar’s right hip.
“Because this particular type of tumor is malignant, we had to take very wide margins around the tumor to remove all of the affected soft tissue,” says Birmingham Zoo Director of Animal Health, Dr. Stephanie McCain, DVM, Dipl ACZM. “Due to the tumors placement on Kumar’s hip, the removal required a large, main incision, as well as smaller incisions to alleviate pressure on the main incision, allowing Kumar to heal. The biggest concern at this point is whether or not we were able to get deep enough below the tumor to remove it all.”
The tumor will be sent off for evaluation to assess whether or not all of the cancerous tissue was removed from Kumar’s hip. Once results from this testing are received, the Zoo’s Veterinary team will have a better understanding of what Kumar’s future health needs may be.
Kumar is scheduled to return to his habitat today pending no complications. Visitors will be able to see Kumar and may notice the surgery site on his right hip.
Kumar was born on April 20, 1999 at the Cincinnati Zoo and came to the Birmingham Zoo on June 19, 2001. Kumar is a Malayan tiger, a smaller species with black stripes on reddish-ochre fur. Malayan tigers are found throughout southern and central parts of Malay Peninsula with their range extending into southern Thailand. Over the last one hundred years, tiger populations have decreased dramatically. Deforestation and hunting has reduced the number in the wild from hundreds of thousands to between 600-800.
Malayan tigers in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited Zoos are managed by the AZA Species Survival Plan ®, a committee consisting of North American zoo professionals that ensures the survival of the species. The average lifespan of a Malayan tiger in the wild is 15 years.