Zoo makes tiger trades to enhance national breeding programs

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Zoo makes tiger trades to enhance national breeding programs
by: MATT BARNARD World Staff Writer
1/2/2008 12:00 AM
Two new Malayan tigers will arrive in Tulsa in about a month.
Two of the world’s rarest felines will soon have a new home in Tulsa.
Handlers will bring a duo of endangered Malayan tigers from a zoo in
Omaha, Neb., to fill the Tulsa Zoo’s existing tiger exhibit. The
current cats are being sent to other zoos for breeding.
Breeding problems forced the move of the two Tulsa Amur tigers, said
Karen Dunn, large mammal curator. An age difference and one tiger’s
health issues added to the reproductive troubles, she said.
Officials expect to receive the new felines from the Henry Doorly Zoo
in about a month and have them on display soon after at the Tulsa
Zoo, 5701 E. 36th St. North.
Dwight Scott, Tulsa Zoo assistant director, said the felines will be
more active and entertaining than their older predecessors.
“They’re going to be more exciting cats to have on exhibit because of
their age,” Scott said.
The new cats, which weigh about 275 pounds each, are almost 3 years
old. Malayan tigers are a rare subspecies, with only 39 living in
captivity in the United States.
Although the new tigers are smaller than the exhibit previous
tenants, the two subspecies have similar diets and look alike, Scott
Officials hope to add more Malayan tigers to the zoo’s collection
when the cats reach maturity and are able to breed.
Mating habits of large cats are difficult to predict and depend on
several factors, such as age, health and individual temperament, Dunn
“We all have our distinct personalities, and that’s the same for
tigers,” Dunn said. “It’s not as easy as just throwing them together
and out pops two cubs.”
The two Amur tigers were nearly six years apart in age, and Nadezhda,
an 11-year-old female, has age related health problems that made
breeding difficult, Dunn said.
Nadezhda will mate with tigers at the Henry Doorly Zoo, and the 6-
year-old Baikal will mate with other females at the Bronx Zoo in New
York. Animal breeding programs are overseen by the Association of
Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit agency that regulates the zoo
industry. The group moves animals between nearly 200 accredited zoos
in North America to keep a species’ gene pool as diverse as possible,
Scott said.
“If we don’t work together, we’re not going to be able to save these
endangered species. If every zoo does its own thing, it’s not going
to work,” he said.
After temporarily sedating the felines, workers will put them into
cages for the road trip to the other zoos.
Scott said the Henry Doorly Zoo is considered a reproductive
authority for tigers and other large cats. The $2.5 million cat
center is the largest feline breeding facility in the country.
The first artificial insemination and test tube conception of tigers
took place at the zoo, Executive Director Lee Simmons said. More than
30 tigers are housed at the zoo, including nine Malayan tigers.

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