Zoo planning special opening on Saturday to allow public to say goodbye
Last Updated: Friday, January 19, 2007 – 3:16 PM AT
Moncton schoolchildren are chipping in to help say a special goodbye to Tomar the Siberian tiger, a beloved 19-year-old cat dying of kidney failure at the Magnetic Hill Zoo.
Nick Smith, principal at Magnetic Hill School, said many of his students can see the zoo from their houses, and they are very concerned about the tiger. They are now collecting money for the tiger in a campaign called “Toonies for Tomar.”
“It’s funny how much talk has been going on among the kids,” Smith said. “They’re concerned, but they don’t know what to do. You can’t give a get-well card to a tiger.”
Tomar has been the iconic face of the zoo for the last two decades, but is not expected to make it through the winter, general manager Bruce Dougan said.
Kidney problems are common among older tigers, which can live up to 20 years in captivity, Dougan said.
In a rare winter opening, the Magnetic Hill Zoo is holding a public open house for Tomar, so visitors can pay their respects, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting.
“He’s doing great right now,” Dougan said on Friday. “Today, he was out and rolling in the snow. He loves winter. To look at him, you wouldn’t know he was sick.
“He’s is a huge part of this community,” Dougan said. “I think every school child in the Moncton area knows Tomar.”
Smith said it hasn’t been determined whether the money raised by the schoolchildren will go towards Tomar’s ongoing care, upkeep on his final resting place at the zoo’s memorial garden, or the big cat’s eventual replacement.
Tomar was among zoo’s first acquisitions
Tomar and his mate Pasha, who died in 2004, were among the first acquisitions at the Magnetic Hill Zoo, after it made the transition from a game farm to a full-fledged zoo in the late 1980s. Tomar was just five months old when he arrived at the zoo in May 1989 from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo, where he was born.
Dougan said the Siberian tigers were an instant hit with the public and a good choice for Magnetic Hill, as they are a snow-loving, popular species in zoos all over the world.
Tomar has taken part in Christmas parades in the city, and helped with the launch of Moncton’s Junior A hockey team, the Wildcats.
The tiger will live on at Wildcats games in the form of an image and victory growl flashed on the big screen at the Moncton Coliseum every time the home team scores.