New tiger comes to Heritage Park Zoo

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New tiger comes to Heritage Park Zoo

By Paula Rhoden
The Daily Courier

Monday, January 19, 2009
A new tiger’s in town.

Cassie, a three-year-old Bengal tiger, arrived at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary Saturday evening after a long trip from Nebraska.

Sanctuary officials moved her into the night house at her new home Sunday morning.

Sanctuary executive director Pam McLaren said Cassie would remain quarantined for 24 to 36 hours.

“She will probably be released into the enclosure Tuesday,” McLaren said.

The first order of business was a medical checkup.

Dr. Ken Skinner and veterinarian assistant Adam Staerkel sedated Cassie before moving her into the night house.

Dr. Skinner drew blood, administered vaccines, checked her hearing and teeth, and checked her for any lumps or bumps.

Cassie’s arrival at Heritage Park comes after a tough year. Three of the sanctuary’s large cats died in 2008: Samson the tiger, Abbe the Mountain Lion and Inca the black panther.

After months of searching for a tiger needing a home, sanctuary officials found Cassie at the Northeast Nebraska Zoo in Royal, Neb.

The Nebraska zoo was closing its doors and had to find new homes for all its animals, including Cassie and her two brothers Victor and William.

Cassie found her new home here in Prescott. Her two brothers found a home at “Keepers of the Wild,” a sanctuary in Valentine, Ariz. Valentine is located about 50 miles northwest of Seligman off Route 66.

McLaren said officials at Keepers of the Wild had room for two of the tigers but could not get them to the sanctuary.

Pulling a large horse trailer with three large cages, McLaren and her husband headed for Nebraska Wednesday afternoon to pick up the three tigers. Because she was bringing a tiger to Heritage Park, McLaren said it was not that far to deliver two tigers to Keepers of the Wild.

McLaren said she did not know which tiger would come to Prescott. “We knew we were getting one, but which one would depend on what worked best for Keepers of the Wild,” she said.

In the end, it was best that Keepers of the Wild keep the two males, and Heritage Park got its first female tiger.

Cassie cried when officials removed her brothers from the horse trailer without her, McLaren said. “However, you can tell she was raised around people. She settled down after we talked to her a little bit,” she said.

McLaren said Keepers of the Wild kept the two males because they will join other males in a large enclosure. She said Cassie is a “still intact female; she has not been spayed.”

Cassie weighs 278 pounds, and sanctuary officials expect her to grow in size and weight.

“These are young, healthy tigers. Bengals don’t even mature until they are about five years of age. So actually, these are babies,” McLaren said. “The life expectancy of Bengal tigers is 15 to 20 years in captivity, depending on their health.

Sanctuary officials have modified Cassie’s enclosure.

McLaren said crews added some height to the fence and strengthened it. The keepers completely sanitized the enclosure and improved the landscaping.

Animal keeper Susanna Koenig will help care for Cassie.

“It is very gratifying to provide a home to another animal in need, especially one that is so interesting to the public,” Koenig said.

People are fascinated with tigers. Koenig said Heritage Parks offers people the opportunity to get a little closer, “to see these majestic animals up close.”

“We are so excited to have another tiger, and a female,” Koenig said.

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