Media Statement

Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.903.2071,
February 1, 2021

NOTE: Download images of Malena at bottom of media statement.
Update on Amur Tiger’s Second Surgery at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield, Ill. — On Saturday, January 30, a team of veterinary specialists performed a second surgery on Malena, a 10½-year-old Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo, just days after the big cat dislodged the custom-designed hip implant she received during a total hip arthroplasty (THA) surgery on January 27 to alleviate pain caused by severe arthritis. The procedure went as planned, she’s recovering well and is under close observation from the zoo’s veterinary team.

Saturday’s procedure, a femoral head and neck excision (FHNE), took just under two hours and was performed by the surgeon who conducted the original surgery last week, Dr. James Cook, DVM, Ph.D., the Allen Distinguished Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, director of the Mizzou BioJoint Center at the University of Missouri. 

The original surgery on Malena was believed to be the first time a full hip replacement surgery with a custom, patient-designed implant was attempted on a tiger in North America. Veterinarians already had planned this secondary surgical option to relieve Malena’s discomfort in the event any complications arose with the implant. During the FHNE procedure, the arthritic head and neck of the femur (thighbone) were removed, allowing a fibrous joint to form and the leg muscles to provide stability to the joint. This procedure also alleviates arthritis pain and restores mobility. 

Compared to a normal tiger, Malena’s ability to perform high energy and high impact activities may be reduced, however, these limitations were already the case due to the severe arthritic changes in her hip.
“We anticipate Malena will have better use and mobility of her leg than she did before surgery and most importantly, her hip will be free of pain,” said Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. 

Malena will remain under close observation at the zoo’s Animal Hospital, where she will remain for one to two weeks before continuing her recovery behind the scenes at Big Cats. Malena is anemic from blood loss associated with the two surgical procedures, but the veterinary team expects her to regenerate red blood cells quickly. She is receiving pain medications to keep her comfortable and relaxed.
On Sunday, the day following the second surgery, Malena was already observed moving around the Animal Hospital ward stalls—walking, standing up, laying down and sitting. By Monday morning, she was eating and drinking water.

“We feel hopeful and optimistic about the procedure and Malena’s recovery from the second surgery. We have seen her rolling on her back, pawing at things, and making other movements that are all normal behaviors for a content, resting cat,” added Adkesson.

Amur tigers (formerly called Siberian tigers) are the largest cats in the world, with some as large as 11-feet long. This subspecies of tiger is adapted to live in colder climates and mountain forests, predominantly in the Russian Far East. There are only an estimated 500 Amur tigers left in the wild. Brookfield Zoo is fortunate to house two Amur tigers. In cooperation with other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Chicago Zoological Society participates in the Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a conservation and population management program, and the Tiger Conservation Campaign. This campaign raises awareness about the plight of tigers and raises funds for anti-poaching and other programs to help save tigers and their habitat.

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Photos--credit Cathy Bazzoni/Chicago Zoological Society

About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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