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Fort Wayne Children's Zoo to get new brother and sister Sumatran tigers

The zoo's only tiger moved last week to San Diego Zoo

Monday, February 18, 2013 - 6:21 pm

The last of the three Sumatran tiger cubs born in 2004 at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo has left, but a new brother-sister duo will arrive later this month to take his place.

Last week, zoo staff loaded up Teddy, who will turn 9 years old on April 22, and sent him to the San Diego Zoo, the zoo announced today.

He and siblings Sparky and Cantik were born April 22, 2004, at the zoo. They are the first and only tigers born at the local zoo.

Cantik was transferred in 2006 to the Topeka Zoo in Kansas, where she was later killed by a potential mate. Sparky was sent in late 2008 to the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, where he still lives.

Sumatran tigers, which live in the jungles in Indonesia, are a critically endangered species in the wild. To preserve genetic diversity in the captive Sumatran tiger population, their breeding is managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP) group from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Teddy will be paired with a potential mate at the San Diego Zoo, the Fort Wayne zoo news release said. He was the last Sumatran tiger at the zoo after his partner, female Kemala, was sent by SSP officials in December to join a potential mate at the Toronto Zoo in Canada.

But the SSP also directed that the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo receive a pair of 1-year-old tigers from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, the news release said.

The brother and sister, female Indah and male Bugara, were born over a 14-hour period Aug. 15-16, 2011, at the Cameron Park Zoo, the news release said. The cubs' mother rejected them, however, so staff there hand-raised the youngsters.

“Though we are always sad to see animals leave, knowing that they could breed and increase the population of this species makes it worthwhile,” zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon said in the Fort Wayne zoo's announcement.

About 65 Sumatran tigers currently live in accredited United States zoos, and four were born in 2012, the news release said.

But Fort Wayne zoo visitors shouldn't expect to see cubs from Indah and Bugara.

Because Indah and Bugara are brother and sister, they will not be allowed to breed with each other, the news release said. Also, having been hand-raised, they are not good candidates for mixing with tigers at other zoos that were reared more naturally by their parents.

In addition, the tiger siblings' genetic background makes them a low priority for breeding, the news release said.

“There are a limited number of zoos with breeding space for Sumatran tigers,” Weldon said, “and those spaces are reserved for cats who can contribute the most genetic diversity to the population.”

Once they arrive, Indah and Bugara will go through a 30-day quarantine period to make sure they are healthy, the news release said. They then will be introduced to the wooded, 1/2-acre Tiger Forest exhibit in the zoo's Indonesian Rain Forest area.

The zoo expects them to be in the exhibit when it opens for the season April 20.