Run, walk or jog for tigers this Sunday at the Zoo

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Run, walk or jog for tigers this Sunday at the Zoo

Published Thursday May 21st, 2009

The Magnetic Hill Zoo’s second Tomar-a-thon Fundraiser Run is coming up on Sunday, May 24. The event is named in memory of Tomar the tiger, who was a Zoo resident for 19 years until his death in December of 2007, and is to help raise money for the acquisition of a new pair of tigers for the Zoo.

Tomar came to the Zoo as a cub from the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. Another cub, Pasha, arrived at about the same time, and the two cats had four cubs during their years together, which were sent to other zoos. For four years after Pasha’s death, Tomar was the lone tiger at the Zoo.

“Tigers are solitary animals in the wild,” says Visitor and Education Programme Coordinator Cathy Simon, “except for breeding seasons. But if they grow up together, like Pasha and Tomar did, they prefer companionship. After Pasha died, Tomar became more social with people, looking for company to replace her.”

The first Tomar-a-thon, brainchild of zoo general manager Bruce Dougan, was held last year in Riverfront Park. About 100 people participated, raising $500. This year the event is being held at the zoo so that other events can be added, and to make the run readily identifiable as a zoo event.

“When they register, all participants will get a zoo t-shirt and a free pass for a day at the zoo that can be used any time,” says Cathy.

Registration begins at 8 a.m., with the run to start an hour later. The cost of participation is $20 per adult, and $10 for children, youth, and spectators. There is a choice of three routes to follow, the shortest being 1.25 kilometres, the next 5 kilometres, and the longest is 8 kilometres. Walk, jog, or run, and stay on for a visit to the animals. There will also be barbeque meat available for sale, and zoo staff and animals will be putting on a presentation for you.

The zoo’s presentations are entertaining and educational. A keeper will bring four or five animals out, tell the audience about them, and answer questions. This is a great opportunity to see animals out of their cages, up close and personal. As to which animals will be part of the presentation, that depends on which animals are feeling up to being sociable on the day.

One of the big events of the morning will be the unveiling of the Tomar-o-meter. Instead of the typical fundraising thermometer, the Zoo is monitoring the progress of its campaign by adding stripes to a large figure of a tiger. So far, towards a target of $400,000 over two years, $39,000 has come in, putting only a few strips on the Tomar-o-meter.

Does it really cost $400,000 to get a pair of tigers? No. In fact, because zoos trade animals back and forth with each other, the actual cost of an animal is negligible if not zero. The expense, for the Magnetic Hill Zoo, comes in the form of building a new, larger and better tiger enclosure for Tomar’s successors.

To that end, all fundraising projects this year are earmarked for a new tiger enclosure, beginning with the Easter Egg Extravaganza which took place in April, continuing through school group revenues, the Tomar-a-thon, and this year’s Boo at the Zoo. The Tomar-a-thon, though, is the one that’s specifically in memory of Tomar.

Even if you don’t want to take part in the Tomar-a-thon, May 24 would be a great day to go to the zoo: all entrance fees for that day will be added to the funds raised for the new tiger enclosure. And if you are planning to participate, don’t stay home if it looks like rain. The event will go ahead, rain or shine, with the presentation taking place under the big white tent should the weather prove uncooperative.

In the wild, the lifespan of tigers is around 15 years. They tend to live longer in captivity, 18 to 25 years where there are no predators or food shortages, and where veterinary care is available. So, the work of fundraising to bring tigers back to Moncton is not aiming at some short-term goal, but at a long-term reward of mutual benefit to the tigers and to the Moncton public who visit them.

“We’re looking to acquire two cubs,” says Cathy. “That way they can grow up here and get to know the staff. And we’d rather introduce them to each other when they’re young, as it can be difficult when they’re older.”

To take part in the Tomar-a-thon, or for more information, call 877 7722 or visit

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