Tigers a treat for zoo visitors Members get 1st look at $3 million exhibit
BY BRENT D. WISTROM
The Wichita Eagle
Posted on Sun, May. 17, 2009
Throngs of Sedgwick County Zoo members got their first glimpse of the new Slawson Family Tiger Trek on Saturday.
Many walked away with simple but important observations about the four big cats.
To sum up:
Endangered and dangerous. A long-standing symbol of power. And, yes, also cool and even cute.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Curtis Harris. “It’s kind of neat seeing them just eat this raw meat.”
His 8-year-old daughter, Amaya, also dug it.
She stood on a bamboo veranda, took a long look at a tiger roaming and decided that the tigers are A.) “cool” and B.) her new favorite zoo exhibit.
Her dad hadn’t seen tigers in a zoo before.
“I didn’t know they were going extinct,” he said. “I thought there was plenty.”
That’s the type of lesson the zoo and the Slawson family that donated $2 million of the $3 million needed for the exhibit had in mind.
The exhibit’s theme is centered on the deforestation and poaching that have pushed tigers to the brink of extinction.
The zoo has two types of tigers: two Malayan and two Amur (also called Siberian). Both are endangered. Only 500 to 1,000 Malayan tigers remain in the wild in Thailand; only 350 to 400 Amur tigers remain in northern China, eastern Russia and North Korea.Sedgwick County Zoo Executive Director Mark Reed said all four tigers are starting to show more personality as they settle into the exhibit.
The tigers won’t be handled like circus animals.
Reed said the Malayan tigers would probably kill anyone who entered their territory immediately.
The Amur tigers, he said, would probably “play with you to death for about 24 hours.”
But it shouldn’t come to that.
The zoo has detailed emergency plans, sharpshooters on hand at all times, and tall fences and alarm systems surrounding the tigers.
The tigers typically live 18 to 20 years in the zoo — or 8 to 12 in the wild. They live longer in captivity because they have steady meals, health care and no droughts.
Reed said the exhibit opens to the public Friday.