Even tigers must endure physical checkups.

It took eight people to carry 182-pound Kali into an exam room at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Tuesday and arrange her on a table.

The Sumatran tiger was sedated and sleeping soundly as six veterinarians and keepers fussed over her, using towels to make her more comfortable as they connected Kali to monitoring equipment.

“She looks like she’s in great health,” said Dr. Karen Wolf, the Tacoma zoo’s head veterinarian. During the hourlong examination, technicians inspected the tiger’s eyes, ears, nose and throat. They polished her teeth after removing a bit of tartar, shaved part of her tail to read her blood pressure and drew blood to check white and red cell counts. One technician gave Kali vaccinations while another cut and filed her claws.

There were radiographs of the tiger’s chest and abdomen and an ultrasound.

Wolf and her assistants worked quickly and often quietly, taking occasional note of what they saw and admiring Kali’s overall health.

“We’re a well-oiled machine at this point,” Wolf said of her team, which is accustomed to doing annual checkups on zoo animals.


Kali, 6, was born at Point Defiance Zoo in April 2013 and is big sister to Kirana, one of Tacoma’s four Sumatran tigers.

The cats, critically endangered, originate from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are 78 Sumatran tigers in accredited North American zoos and an estimated 300 in the wild.

Kali was hand-raised and because of that, her keepers say she’s especially interactive and willing to lie still for long periods during regular health tests. Unlike most tigers, she isn’t fond of swimming. She will go to great lengths to protect her dinner — a concoction of raw meats and essential vitamins.

Her favorite treats are rabbits and blood-sicles and she loves to play with a weighted ball that pops up if you push it down.

At the end of Kali’s checkup, she was carried back behind the scenes at the Asian Forest Sanctuary and laid on a pile of straw for a few hours of monitoring and recovery.