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Sumatran tiger leaves; 2 more on the way

Statement as issued Monday by the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo:

One Sumatran tiger has departed and two more will arrive this month at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo as part of a cooperative effort to increase the population of this critically endangered species.

Male Sumatran tiger Teddy, who was the only tiger at the zoo, departed last week for the San Diego Zoo. Teddy was one of three cubs born at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo on April 22, 2004. Teddy's companion, a female named Kemala, moved to the Toronto Zoo in December.

A pair of one-year-old Sumatran tigers from the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas is expected to arrive in Fort Wayne later this month. Indah, the female, was born on August 15, 2011. Her brother Bugara was born 14 hours later on August 16. They were rejected by their mother and hand-raised by the Cameron Park Zoo staff.

The moves of all four tigers were recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The SSP coordinates the breeding of zoo tigers to ensure the genetic diversity of the captive population. Both Teddy and Kemala will be matched with potential mates at their new facilities.

"Though we are always sad to see animals leave, knowing that they could breed and increase the population of this species makes it worthwhile," says zoo animal curator Mark Weldon. About 65 Sumatran tigers currently live in accredited United States zoos, and four were born in 2012.

Because they are so closely related, Indah and Bugara will not be bred with each other. As hand-reared cats, they are not good candidates for breeding with tigers who were parent-reared. In addition, their genetic background makes them a low priority for breeding. "There are a limited number of zoos with breeding space for Sumatran tigers," says Weldon, "and those spaces are reserved for cats who can contribute the most genetic diversity to the population."

Upon arrival, Indah and Bugara will undergo a routine 30-day quarantine period before being introduced to their exhibit. The two will live together in the wooded half-acre Tiger Forest exhibit within the award-winning Indonesian Rain Forest.

Found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, with fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers though to remain in the wild. Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the six living tiger subspecies. Experts believe only that only 3,200 total tigers remain in the wild. Three tiger subspecies have become extinct in the last 80 years.

The zoo opens for the 2013 season on Saturday, April 20.

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