Smuggled tiger cub undergoes emergency surgery

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SAN DIEGO -- The Bengal tiger cub that was rescued from a smuggler last summer at the U.S.-Mexico border underwent surgery this week to fix an intestinal obstruction and other medical issues, it was reported Thursday.

The outlook for Moka was positive immediately following Tuesday's surgery, which was deemed necessary after the male cub fell acutely ill Sunday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Moka has been living at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since shortly after he was rescued on Aug. 23.

But Moka "is not out of the woods yet,'' said Lauren Howard, an associate director of veterinary services at the Safari Park told the Union- Tribune. The cub will be in observation for another week or so to ensure his recovery goes smoothly, Howard said.

Moka's health issues included low kidney function, which veterinarians originally judged to be bearable, the Union-Tribune reported. But more extensive complications were later discovered after Moka was found to be dehydrated and underweight for his age. That's when he was removed from the exhibit he shares with Rakan, a Sumatran tiger who's a month older and was brought to San Diego after his mother at another zoo rejected him.

Safari Park officials said it appeared Moka's condition was likely the result of a poor diet or other complications suffered during his first six weeks of life, before he was discovered being smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

That smuggler, 18-year-old Perris resident Luis Eudoro Valencia, was sentenced last month to six months in federal prison. Valencia's attorney said his client wanted the tiger cub as a pet, but prosecutors said cell phone data shows that the defendant was running an animal smuggling business and had boasted about making thousands of dollars by selling monkeys, jaguars and lions.

Bengal tigers like Moka are considered endangered.

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