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Sanctuary Shocked By Latest Big Cat Death

Employees at a wildlife sanctuary in Wylie say a sixth big cat died out of the blue Sunday night from canine distemper.

Kazuri, a white tiger, had previously tested positive for distemper but wasn’t showing neurological symptoms. In fact, he spent Sunday playing his favorite game, hide and seek, with staffers. Employees say his sudden death most likely resulted from the equivalent of a grand mal seizure.

Another tiger, Lucca, died Thursday after suffering for weeks in isolation with symptoms including paralysis. Lucca had lived atIn-Sync Exotics in Collin County for 13 years and came to the sanctuary as a 2-month-old cub.

“It will be months and months, maybe even next year until we feel safe to say this nightmare is over,” says volunteer Lisa Williams.

Sixteen animals are still sick with distemper, so In-Sync cannot take in any new big cats for the time being. Three of the six cats who have died were brothers. In all, five tigers and one lioness have succumbed to the illness.

In-Sync is still open for tours on the weekends. The sanctuary has gotten a lot of interest from new volunteers, but the distemper outbreak has made it tough to train them. Right now, employees say donations and wish list items are the most helpful contributions.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.