Our tigers have moved out to Dubbo while the new Sumatran Tiger Experience is being constructed at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. This re-development will see an increase in the size of the tiger exhibits and is due for completion in 2017. Being in a location that is surrounded by Sydney suburbs and the harbour, space is limited so such a big re-development has meant that the tigers needed to be relocated in order for the new precinct to be built.
The cats travelled very well on the trip out to Dubbo. It was a very early 5am start for all staff involved. The carnivore staff successfully 'boxed' the three tigers and the backyard staff then removed the transport crates out of the Cats of Asia building and onto the vehicle. Box conditioning commenced three weeks before the departure date to ensure all three tigers were relaxed and comfortable in entering their transport crates. The daily conditioning involved the tigers entering the crates to retrieve, and eat, their meat. This conditioning had to be done simultaneously with all three tigers entering their crates at the exact same time. It is the first time that Taronga Zoo has had to transfer three big cats in one transaction and so the planning was meticulous.
Both myself and another carnivore keeper, Deb Price, accompanied the tigers on the trip to Dubbo. We stopped numerous times along the way to ensure the safety and welfare of the tigers. We arrived at Taronga Western Plains mid-afternoon and then proceeded to unload and release the tigers from their crates. Jumilah was the first animal to be unloaded. It took her about 10 minutes to leave the safety of her transport crate. Her offspring, Kembali and Kartika, were quicker to leave their crates and enter the night yards.
They settled in quite quickly on that first afternoon with all three eating the meat that was offered to them.
They have quickly settled into their new surroundings and routine, even Kembali who is the more sensitive of the trio. From their first day they have had the confidence to move around the night yards and approach keepers for handfeeding, which has been instrumental in building a positive relationship between the tigers and their new keepers.
Interestingly, in the first few days after their arrival Sakti (who arrived in April and is also the son of Jumilah & brother to Kembali & Kartika) was heard calling to the trio.