Omaha Zoo’s playful tiger Shasta heading to San Francisco

Avatar BCR | May 8, 2011 6 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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A tiger that would rather play than mate is taking her heart to San Francisco.

Shasta, a 10-year-old Siberian tiger at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo for the last seven years, is moving in June to the San Francisco Zoo to be a display animal.

The Omaha zoo has an internationally recognized big-cat breeding and genetics program but it didn’t work for Shasta, said Dan Cassidy, the zoo’s general curator.

The 295-pound Shasta rejected all attempts by male tigers at romance. She never had a litter.

“She’d want to play when he would want to breed,” Cassidy said. “Things didn’t work out.”

Shasta’s move to California will be her third. She was born in 2000 at the Indianapolis Zoo, sent to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, in September 2002, and moved to Omaha in December 2003.

Shasta will replace Tatiana, a Siberian tiger that was shot to death after it attacked and killed a teenage visitor at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day 2007.

Cassidy said it’s not unusual for animals to move around the country, based on the breeding and display needs of zoos and goals for an animal.

Coincidentally, the Omaha zoo this week was hosting about 150 big-cat reproductive physiologists, behaviorialists, geneticists, veterinarians, keepers and curators from across the United States. They are discussing all cat species held in zoos, including possible future moves.

Cassidy said the group is a sort of dating service.

Shasta’s move west doesn’t mean the Omaha zoo is downsizing its big-cat exhibits or research, Cassidy said. The zoo plans to breed more of its big cats this year.

The Omaha zoo’s new development plan calls for replacing its cat house, which hosts eight to 10 species, with sprawling displays that better reflect their native habitat.

For example, lions would be in an Africa area, near zebras and giraffes. An Asian highlands area would include Siberian tigers and snow leopards.

Shasta will be renamed Martha at her new home in honor of a San Francisco Zoo donor, Cassidy said.

“That will be her ‘house’ name,” he said, “but the name on her permanent record will be Shasta.”

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