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Kya, Blind Tiger, Comes to Popcorn Park



Little by little, Kya's world faded away, right in front of her eyes … literally.

At 6 months old, when she was acquired by a zoo in Maryland, the Bengal tiger was showing signs of vision problems. By the age of 3, Kya had become completely blind. The zoo where she had lived for 2-1/2 years felt they could no longer keep her on display. What would happen to her? No one wanted a blind tiger.
Luckily for Kya, there are always ears tuned to conversations about animals in need. And luckily, one individual who heard about her — Dr. Jonathan Bergmann — is one of Popcorn Park's veterinarians. Our veterinarians not only work here, but at a number of other zoos and aquariums. When Dr. Jonathan Bergmann heard about Kya’s plight from another zoo, he knew exactly where she would be welcomed and kept comfortable for the rest of her life.

Kya is a white Bengal tiger and along with the recessive white gene comes a host of other potential issues, one of which may be sight. Kya has been slowly losing her vision to glaucoma for the last 3 years to a point where she is now blind. There were no other sanctuaries or zoos that would accept her. Dr. Bergmann talked to the zoo director and told them that Popcorn Park had a facility to accommodate Kya and her sight problems; arrangements were made shortly thereafter.

Popcorn Park took an existing tiger enclosure and with some modifications, made it easy for a blind animal to negotiate. This very special tiger arrived at Popcorn Park in September. She is amazingly beautiful and has the sweetest personality. Although she has suffered with glaucoma, (she can see shadows and movements), she doesn't let her handicap hold her back.

Her other senses are so keen that she finds the door openings to her den and outside area even while running, and very rarely does she bump into anything. Its incredible to watch her play and run, and if you call her from wherever she may be in her yard, she will come running and chuffing, (talking), looking for attention. All of the cats at Popcorn Park enjoy being outside and playing, of course, but none can match her sheer enjoyment of life.

Kya when she first arrived at Popcorn Park.

Staff will stand outside her fence silent and motionless, and as Kya walks by, she will take no more than two steps past the caretaker, stop, turn around and walk back to the caretaker and start chuffing. How she finds us is so impressive we just can’t believe it. Along with regular visits from our staff veterinarians, Kya has started a series of optomologist appointments with NorthStar Vets. She has been sedated and given a complete health and eye exam. Kya has been put on medication to reduce the pressure from the glaucoma and thankfully shows no signs of being in any kind of pain or discomfort.

Thursday night is a special night at Popcorn Park. Its bone night! Kya turns bone night into her own special private party by grabbing the bone, throwing it up in the air and batting it around for 15 minutes or so until she finally decides to settle down and enjoy gnawing on it.

Because Kya gets excited at the sounds and motion of people walking by her enclosure, we needed to make sure she wouldn’t get too excited when visitors were here and injure herself running from sound to sound or movement to movement. Initially, we let her out in the early morning and brought her back in before 11:00 a.m. when we open.

While she was outside, staff worked on desensitizing her to the noise and commotion she would experience during a normal day. She slowly has become used to the sounds made by other animals and Park staff. The first week of November was her big test. Two classes from the Lacey Township Middle School were here for an early tour of Popcorn Park. Staff positioned the 20 or so students around her outside enclosure to simulate a crowd of visitors, calling her from one side to another. Students ran in front of her fencing and she playfully ran alongside of them in her yard. She did wonderfully and had as much fun as the students did with all of the attention. As we are still getting Kya accustomed to crowds, she may not be outside yet if you visit, but soon she will be out every day.

Despite her handicap. Kya enjoys life to the fullest and you can certainly see it when she’s walking around her yard, as proud as can be.

One of Kya's worlds faded away – the world she perceived with her eyes. But another has come to replace it, a world where love and compassion surround her, a world Kya knows and feels with her heart.

Kya would greatly appreciate your help with her medical expenses and glaucoma medication. Please help Kya with a donation to her care through our Res-Q Fund or by sponsoring Kya in the Wildlife Club.

11/18/2013

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