Boo hoo, three tiger brothers are leaving the zoo! The public is invited to visit the tigers Jaya, Bunga and Penari during their final days at the Palm Beach Zoo this weekend at “Boo at the Zoo.” During all of the Halloween festivities, the zoo is only serving candy that is tiger habitat-friendly (from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil: RSPO).
The three popular Malayan tigers are transferring to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on Monday, October 28, 2013, as part of the Palm Beach Zoo’s mission of endangered species propagation. With fewer than 500 Malayan tigers estimated left in the wild, the Species Survival Plan (SSP) between the two zoos, both accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is of utmost importance to these endangered tigers.
“Although these tiger ‘boys’ will surely be missed, we know that it’s time for them to start the next chapter in their lives,” said Nancy Nill, Associate Curator for the Palm Beach Zoo. “It is time for them to leave the nest, and eventually be paired with females to start their own families.”
Nill witnessed first-hand the tigers’ births, and remained in close care of them during many of their “firsts,” including the first time they opened their eyes, the first time they attempted to walk, the first time they were weighed and the first time they ever went outside.
“Being able to watch them grow has been rewarding,” said Nill. “It’s been a great opportunity for us to learn more about Malayan tigers in general. Not everyone has the chance to experience what we did here at the Palm Beach Zoo.”
The three tigers are huge crowd favorites, shining in the public eye ever since their mother, Berapi Api (known simply as Berapi), gave birth to them in May 2011 at the Palm Beach Zoo. Berapi will remain on exhibit in the current Palm Beach Zoo habitat, “Tiger Falls.” Her three sons will be part of a state-of-the-art, 2.5-acre attraction at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens called “Land of the Tiger,” set to open in March 2014. “Land of the Tiger” will be a one-of-a-kind habitat where the tigers will be able to roam safely throughout the exhibit on a fortified trail system.
“Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens staff and guests are really looking forward to meeting the boys in person,” said Dan Maloney, Deputy Director of Conservation and Education at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. “Palm Beach Zoo's brother tigers will be pioneers, as they have the unique distinction of being the first cats to call Jacksonville Zoo’s landmark ‘Land of the Tiger’ habitat home.”
Nill pointed out only two out of fourteen Malayan tiger pairs were successful in producing offspring in 2011. In addition to the pairing of Berapi and Rimba, which resulted in the three tiger cubs of Jaya, Bunga and Penari, a pair of tigers at the San Diego Zoo produced two cubs in that year.
“You factor in that there are only between 250 and 500 of these tigers in the wild, most likely on the lower end of that range, and it reminds us that each and every Malayan tiger birth is critical to help sustain the population in captivity,” explained Nill.
Even though zookeepers are sad to see them go, they have something to look forward to within the next few months: the Palm Beach Zoo will again receive a male Malayan tiger, Keemasan Mata, to be paired with Berapi. Keemasan Mata, simply called Mata, stayed at the Palm Beach Zoo from November 2006 to April 2011.
“I am personally excited to work with Mata again,” said Nill. “I am also excited at the prospect that I may be able to see another set of Malayan tigers grow up here.”