New female Siberian tiger still hiding out from visitors
By LINDA HALSTEAD-ACHARYA
Of The Gazette Staff
The door’s been open now for more than three weeks, but Luna, ZooMontana’s new Siberian tiger, has yet to venture outside.
That could change any day, according to Sarah Chatwood, volunteer and guest services director there.
"And once they go out, they don’t usually go back in for some time," she said.
Luna’s behavior comes as no surprise to zoo staff. Chatwood said they had been told by Luna’s former keepers at the Minnesota Zoo that she takes a long time adjusting to change. Chatwood suspects part of Luna’s unease is due to the tiger’s somewhat-restricted view from the door of the holding facility.
"She can’t see exactly where she will go," Chatwood said. "For a captive animal, they like to know where their boundaries are."
So far, Luna has peeked out the door, and she’s even stretched out to where she could reach a meat ball that zoo keepers had used to entice her out. But as of Friday, she continued to pace the indoor catwalk, revealing a flash of stripes each time she passed the opening. Occasionally, she paused to scope out the visitors eagerly awaiting her appearance.
Luna arrived at ZooMontana on Jan. 5 as part of a multistate tiger shuffle that sent the zoo’s former female tiger Nadia to Minnesota. Not uncommon in the zoo world, such trades serve as a means of maintaining a healthy captive population by exchanging animals for breeding. There are no plans, however, to breed Luna to Prince, ZooMontana’s male tiger. According to Chatwood, he’s already well-represented in the gene pool, so he is not on the breeding list for Siberian tigers.
Luna and Prince are two of only about 100 Siberian tigers in captivity in the United States. Native to eastern Asia and northern China, the tigers are estimated to number only 420 in the wild.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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