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Tiger road trip a move for good

Zoo News - Posted 27 November 2013

Trevor Penfold ftf tigers 20130607 11

Auckland and Hamilton zoos’ male Sumatran tigers Oz and Jaka travel State Highway 1 – to swap homes and cities to help further the international breeding programme for this critically endangered big cat.

Nine-year-old Oz, who relocated from Tel Aviv to Auckland in 2006 and fathered Auckland Zoo’s first tiger cubs with Jaka’s sister Molek in 2008, moves to Hamilton Zoo to be paired up with five-year-old Sali.

Like Oz, Sali, who arrived from Dreamworld last August, is a genetically valuable animal. Given successful breeding, the young pair will make an important contribution to the WAZA (World Association of Zoos & Aquaria) Sumatran Tiger Global Species Management Plan.

Due to loss of rainforest habitat from illegal logging and expansion of the palm oil industry and also poaching, there are now fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild. Zoos throughout Australasia, America, Europe, Japan and Indonesia are working together to manage an insurance population of Sumatran tigers – currently around 300 animals.

Hamilton Zoo curator Samantha Kudeweh says staff are very excited about their first opportunity to breed Sumatran tigers and contribute to the conservation of this special species.

“Sali is a very popular tiger with all who get to know her. She is a lovely playful young female, and we’re very hopeful that she’ll prove to be a good mother,” says Mrs Kudeweh

Auckland Zoo’s carnivore team leader Bruce Murdock says the move is a great team effort for a species that urgently needs all the help it can get.

“Our Hamilton colleagues supported us in 2006, providing Jaka’s sister Molek as a breeding partner for Oz when our tiger Nisha passed away - a pairing that resulted in three healthy tigers, so we’re delighted to be supporting and collaborating with Hamilton Zoo towards the continuing success of this breeding programme. Jaka will be a fantastic addition to our tiger family. Like Hamilton’s, our tigers enable us to advocate for these big cats in the wild in Sumatra  - where, through our respective conservation funds, we’re active in supporting the outstanding efforts of Flora & Fauna International’s 21st Century Tiger project,” says Mr Murdock.   

Following his quarantine at Auckland Zoo, Jaka will on public display by early December. Hamilton Zoo curator Sam Kudeweh says tiger Oz will be on public display within a few days of his arrival, and says introduction and breeding plans will progress slowly throughout 2014, and be led by the behaviour of both tigers.

TIGER ROAD TRIP:  Both Oz and Jaka have been crate-trained to walk into custom-built stainless crates for their respective 1.5 hour road trips in a transit truck. The day-long operation will see Oz transported to Hamilton Zoo late morning, with Auckland Zoo keepers returning with Jaka in the afternoon.  

Sumatran tiger Fast Facts:

  • There are now fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild – a big cat that the ICUN Red List classifies as “Critically Endangered” 
  • Auckland Zoo  Conservation Fund and Hamilton Zoo Conservation Fund partners with 21st      Century Tiger and Fauna and Flora International supporting tiger conservation in the wild. 
  • 21st Century Tiger’s work in world heritage site, Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra (that protects the single largest population of Sumatran tigers) has seen the Sumatran tiger population increase from an estimated 140 animals in 2006 to at least 177 individuals today. 

To find out more about the efforts of 21st Century Tiger, visit www.21stcenturytiger.org

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