First came Knut, then Snowflake fever. Both baby bears would have died if humans hadn't stepped in. But Germany's recent obsession with fuzzy white cubs might be just the tip of the iceberg.
The German penchant for saving infant carnivores from certain doom spread to a new, striped species of megafauna on Thursday, when a 24-year-old woman visiting a zoo in the city of Halle leapt into a cage to resuscitate a baby tiger choking on a piece of meat.
Janine Bauer was watching the zoo's big cats with her son, Johann, when the four-month old tiger began to choke. "The little baby tiger was gnawing meat off a bone. All of a sudden he couldn't breathe and lost conciousness," said Bauer, according to the daily newspaper Bild.
A zookeeper rushed to the cub's side, but his hands were too big to pull the offending strip of steak out of the young tiger's throat. So Bauer, a medical student, left her one year-old son in his stroller and rushed into the enclosure.
She was able to pull the 10 centimeter chunk of meat out of the tiger's windpipe, but he did not regain consciousness on his own. So Bauer performed CPR on the cub, using heart massage to jump-start the young tiger's pulse and locking lips to chops to breathe air back into his lungs.
"It was like just like an infant," said Bauer. "It took four or five endless minutes, but then the tiger was growling again."
In gratitude, the zoo's director announced that the tiger would be named Johann -- just like Bauer's son.
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