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Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Sumatran tigers get new home at Safari Park

REGION — The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest exhibit is pure luxury for its feline inhabitants.

More than twice the size of the big cat’s original hang out, the Tull Family Tiger Trail’s three exhibits are complete with a waterfall and swimming pool for splashing around, heated rocks for sunbathing, green slopes for running, and shaded nooks for cooling down.

One of the keepers for the Park’s six Sumatran tigers, Janet Lawhon, explained that the new habitat provides more enrichment for the tigers.

The new tiger habitat includes features like a waterfall that were designed to keep the tigers engaged and interested in their surroundings. Photo by Rachel Stine
The new tiger habitat includes features like a waterfall that were designed to keep the tigers engaged and interested in their surroundings. Photo by Rachel Stine

The exhibits’ features will help keep the tigers engaged and interested in their surroundings, more so when paired with stimulating scents and sounds placed inside.

Teddy licks his paws and mouth, checking for any last drips of meat that he received for following his keepers’ directions. Photo by Rachel Stine
Teddy licks his paws and mouth, checking for any last drips of meat that he received for following his keepers’ directions. Photo by Rachel Stine

Lawhon said the swimming pool and waterfall has proven intriguing for the cats, particularly when keepers added one of their favorite scents, peppermint, to the water.

The exhibits provide several spaces for keepers to interact with the tigers with behavioral management techniques in full view of guests. These techniques include having the tigers jump onto a fence and roll over, and allow the keepers to check the tigers’ stomachs, paws, and teeth without sedating the large animals.

The $19.5 million exhibit is also designed to provide greater tiger access education for park guests.

Lawhon said that she used to get complaints for guests who visited the Safari Park multiple times and never saw a tiger.

With walkways all the way around all of the tiger exhibits, “You’re going to be hard-pressed not to see a tiger here,” she said.

The Tiger Trail’s educational outreach focuses on teaching guests about these furry felines and also the two biggest threats to Sumatran tigers: poaching and logging.

Today, there are only 300 to 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild because they are being killed for their bones and fur and their habitat is being destroyed by logging, explained San Diego Zoo and Safari Park Ambassador Rick Schwartz.

“We could literally lose this type of animal in our lifetime,” he said.

The Tiger Trail will be open to the public May 24. Visit sdzsafaripark.org for more information about the trail and Safari Park.

Two male Sumatran tigers mess around with each other in their new home at the Safari Park. Photo by Rachel Stine
Two male Sumatran tigers mess around with each other in their new home at the Safari Park. Photo by Rachel Stine

 

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