Aasha, a Bengal tiger, was just 9 months old when she died. However, she weighed roughly 30 pounds, making her the size of a 3-month-old cub.
Vicky Keahey, the founder of Texas’ In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Educational Center, first learned of this shocking information in March 2011 from a USDA inspector who was worried about Aasha and wanted to transfer her to Keahey’s care.
“I was perplexed as to how a 9-month-old tiger could be so little,” Keahey told The Dodo. Aasha’s terrible narrative came together piece by piece as Keahey learnt more, setting the stage for an all-too-familiar scene: Aasha was a member of a touring circus. She was kept in a cage with a much larger tiger who preyed on her.
The USDA inspector indicated that during a recent check, it was determined that the circus animals were not being properly cared for, and that something was particularly amiss with Aasha, but it was unclear what it was.
Keahey consented to take her in, and the moment she saw Aasha, she knew precisely what was wrong with her: ringworm.
“Aasha’s bald patches covered practically her whole body, and her skin was dry, cracked, darkened, and bleeding,” according to Keahey. She had open wounds as well, which Keahey suspected were bite marks from the larger tiger she shared her space with. A trip to the doctor verified Aasha’s ringworm, and she was quarantined at In-Sync Exotics in a separate enclosure.
“I would go in every day, twice a day, and give Aasha meds and spend time with her,” Keahey explained. “I knew I’d have to manage her if I was going to get her well.” Aasha also had a special medicinal bath every day, which she didn’t like – Keahey said she ran away, requiring him to hunt her down. Aasha had no idea, however, that she would soon become quite the swimmer.
“You could see small patches of fuzz sprouting back to [what were formerly] bald places after eight weeks of therapy,” Keahey added.
“By the end of the treatments, Aasha had developed a taste for water, so I installed a tiny tub in [her enclosure] for her to swim about in,” she explained.
Aasha grew in size under Keahey’s care, and while she was no longer allowed to sit in Aasha’s cage with her now that she was bigger and healthier, she still enjoyed playing games with the tigress, such as giving her a thorough washing with a hose.
“She looked like a genuine tiger after eight months, and it was time to test how she would behave to other tigers,” Keahey added.
“We loaded her up and parked her next to Smuggler. He was completely enamored with her and was always flaunting himself in front of her “she stated
Despite the fact that Smuggler was three times the size of Aasha, Keahey detected a spark between the two…
… and thought Aasha would be able to manage herself around the male tiger, thus the two started dating.
Through supervised playdates, they grew to know each other better until they were ready to share an enclosure.
Keahey replied, “That was around four years ago.”
“Aasha is roughly half the size of Smuggler, but he understands when to stay away from her,” she explained.
Aasha has evolved from a sickly tiger baby, a victim of maltreatment and neglect, to a lively, confident adult tiger who enjoys the one thing she used to be afraid of the most…
… the water.
Take a look at this adorable video of Aasha and Smuggler when they were initially getting to know each other.