TACOMA – A portable radio blares continuous Christmas music in Mali’s hospital suite.
She’s got heat and light. A large blue plastic ball to play with. And attentive, vigilant care.
And according to staff at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the endangered Sumatran tiger cub who nearly died two weeks ago is recovering nicely – you might even say ferociously – from surgery to remove an abdominal blockage.
“She’s acting much more like a tiger (again),” zoo curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said. Mali was well and stable Friday.
She’s also got a burgeoning fan club with dozens of Facebook posts, prayers, e-mails and letters from humans wishing her well.
“I hope you survive your whole life,” said 6-year-old Harvest, her message included in a packet of drawings and accompanying thoughts sent to the zoo by Jenifer Roberts at the Cradle to Crayons Child Care Center in Olympia.
Mali, though still getting daily doses of phenobarbital to prevent seizures, gets up and noses around her padded enclosure and heartily eats the 3 pounds of ground-up cow (virtually every part, including bones) and diced beef chunks she gets daily, her keepers said.
And perhaps the most tiger-like behavior of all: If someone comes near her hospital bed of straw scattered on a stall mat, her mouth snaps open. You can see the points of her fangs and hear the growing growl emanating from deep inside, even though a wall of steel bars separates her from visitors.
“We’re all pretty stoked at her progress,” said senior staff biologist Paul Povey, who oversees the Asian Forest Sanctuary exhibit that’s home to Mali; her littermate, Bima; and mom and dad, Jaya and Bali.