The headline: "Wanted - a Name for Baby Tiglon," Deseret News May 7, 1948.
The most talked-about baby in Salt Lake City that year was born May 6, 1948, at Hogle Zoological Gardens. Weighing in at 1 pound 12 ounces, the 4-by-7-inch kitten was a real rarity - a mix of lion and tiger.
But she wasn't really a tiglon, she was a liger. In zoological parlance, the father's contribution to the name of a hybrid animal comes first, the mother's second.
In this case, Salt Lake's rare hybrid animal was the offspring of Daisy, a tigress donated to the zoo two years earlier by the Deseret News, and Huey, a male lion born at the zoo in 1941.
At the time, the only other known tiger/lion hybrid in America was a tiglon residing in New York's Central Park Zoo.
After the first few mentions of a tiglon, the Deseret News corrected its mistake. Shasta became one of Utah's most admired females and a magnet for zoo visitors, contributing to the growing popularity of the Salt Lake gardens.
With the announcement that the anxiously awaited unusual baby had made its appearance, the Deseret News sponsored a contest to give her a name.
When Daisy failed to nurse her new infant, city parks director Joseph L. Sloan took the kitten home to bottle-feed her. Salt Lakers took a great interest in periodic reports that the liger was gulping a formula of one part milk, two parts water, every few hours at the rate of an ounce per feeding.
Zoo superintendent Joseph M. Naylor had made the decision to breed his two cat species. He liked to say, a bit tongue-in-cheek, that a "secret love potion" was responsible for the successful mating but seriously attributed Shasta's birth to the fact that Daisy and Huey had been together in their youth.
Attempts in other zoos to produce lion/tiger hybrids usually ended with the two potential parents either killing or seriously injuring each other, the newspaper reported.
As she grew, the crossbred cat developed characteristic tiger stripes on a body most resembling that of a lion. As the Hogle Zoo darling, she was pampered, leading one zoo worker to suggest that she had been named Shasta because "She-asta have this and she-asta have that." An annual birthday party brought thousands of children to the zoo every May to celebrate with Shasta.
When it was reported in the international press that "the world's only known surviving liger, Rajah," had been euthanized in a Bloemfontein, South Africa, zoo, Salt Lakers reacted indignantly. Shasta, who appeared with Rajah's death to have become in fact the world's only living liger, was a healthy 9 years old at the time.
At 18, when most lions and tigers are approaching the end of their lives, Shasta was " in the best condition of her life," said Zoo Director LaMar Farnsworth. But over the next few years, old age took its inevitable toll. Like many humans, she developed arthritis and her body systems began to decline. On July 19, 1972, the Hogle Zoo icon died at age 24, having lived well beyond what she might have done in the wilds. A taxidermist preserved the remains, which are displayed in the big-cat area of the zoo.
In two dozen years, Shasta did what nothing else appeared able to do - rescued Salt Lake's zoo from mediocrity and possible demise. Her popularity brought thousands of curious visitors to the zoo and established it as a Utah sightseeing objective.
The zoo had struggled along for years after a shoestring start.
A Deseret News clip for May 8, 1912, says that George D. Keysor, the city's parks commissioner, had requested $153 to purchase animals to begin a zoo in Liberty Park.
The initial acquisitions were primarily birds, since they were most easily obtained. Pairs of ducks, cranes, blue pea fowls and golden pheasants became the foundation of what later evolved into the Tracy Aviary, a news account says. The only non-avian species on display were ringtail monkeys and a fox squirrel.
In 1931, James A. Hogle donated land in the mouth of Emigration Canyon as a home for the expanding zoological gardens. In 1952, the first Utah Zoological Society was established to advance the zoo's objectives.
The first elephant, Princess Alice, was purchased from a traveling circus. She lived to celebrate her 74th birthday at the zoo. Three Masai giraffes arrived in 1969, and Utahns of all ages and backgrounds chipped in to bring a pair of gorillas to the zoo. They were named Dan, for Salt Lake Tribune columnist Dan Valentine, and Elaine for his wife.
An unfortunate accident at the zoo in 1964 left curator Gerald de Bary dead of a pit viper bite but ultimately led to important research in venomology.
De Bary, 37, was working on a snake cage in the zoo's reptile house and inadvertently let his arm fall across the cage. An African puff adder, one of the most deadly snakes in the world, bit him on the left hand. Several doses of antivenin failed to reverse the effects of the venom and de Bary died less than two days later. An airplane bringing specific antivenin across the Atlantic arrived too late to help the stricken zookeeper.
University of Utah and Salt Lake Veterans Hospital researchers, cooperating with the zoo, ultimately developed a surgery to devenomize snakes so they could be safely displayed. Research using venoms is ongoing at the Salt Lake institutions.
De Bary, who had frequently handled poisonous reptiles as he extended the zoo's educational efforts, was credited with significant improvements to the park.
Building on his foundation, current director LaMar Farnsworth continued to develop Hogle gardens into one of the country's recognized zoos. The Salt Lake facility now is part of an international network of zoological gardens that uses sophisticated technology not only to display animals effectively but to breed and maintain endangered species.