Arissa, a 16-year-old female Bengal tiger, is still on exhibit at Hogle Zoo but is showing signs of age and is under veterinary care.
A sign has been placed at the animal's exhibit at the zoo to give visitors information about the tiger, zoo marketing director Andrew Wallace said Tuesday.Many of the exhibits at the zoo, which has a collection of about 1,400 animals, contain older animals. As animals become older, they quite naturally show signs of age and visitors sometimes ask zoo workers about them. Hopefully, the sign will help visitors understand the animals better, he said.
Zoo officials have pointed out in the past that it's important for the public to realize that animals, just like people, grow old and die.
But Wallace said zoo workers are skilled in caring for the animals and often can help lengthen and enhance their lives to a greater extent than if they were in the wild.
One Salt Lake woman who recently visited the zoo thought that the sign about Arissa referred to the zoo's Siberian tiger. But Wallace said that animal is healthy.
The zoo, he said, had two female Siberian tigers, but they were were shipped a couple of months ago to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. Hogle Zoo received another Siberian tiger, a male, from the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn. Wallace said Hogle Zoo is now awaiting the shipment of a female Siberian tiger from Toronto, Canada.
The exchange is possible because the zoo is affiliated with the Species Survival Plan, a captive breeding program, Wallace said.
Bengal tigers, native to the area between India and Bangladesh, and Siberian tigers are both considered endangered species.
The sign on Arissa's exhibit says the tiger has "surpassed her normal life expectancy. In the wild, tigers live an average of 10 to 12 years. Due to her advanced age, her health is deteriorating. Our animal and veterinary staff are aware of her condition and are making her as comfortable as possible," the sign reads.
Wallace also said Tuesday that the zoo should have a new full-time veterinarian on staff by the end of the summer.
When Dr. Ross S. Anderson, who had been the zoo's full-time veterinarian for about 15 years, parted company with the zoo in April, officials said temporary veterinary care was being provided until a new zoo veterinarian could be hired.
Two veterinary staff members left the zoo after Anderson. Zoo executive director Craig Dinsmore said in late April that the departure of Anderson and the other employees didn't jeopardize animal care.
Wallace said Dr. Douglas W. Folland, a Centerville veterinarian, and an associate, Dr. Tracy Thompson of Parrish Creek Veterinary Clinic, are continuing to provide regular care to animals at the zoo until a new full-time veterinarian can be hired.
And he said Dr. Judy Davis, a veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional animal care office in Sacramento, still makes periodic, routine inspections at the zoo. The USDA administers the Animal Welfare Act.
Wallace said zoo officials are also working to hire a firm to prepare a master plan for the zoo. Interviews have been conducted. When a firm is selected, it will look at each specific area as well as the zoo as a whole, he said.
That will include the zoo's Feline Building. Wallace said the structure, built in 1968, is adequate in meeting the needs of tigers, lions, Arabian wild cats, leopards, jaguars, and other felines. But he said the zoo would like more naturalistic environments and more space for the animals and would like to incorporate newer ideas into exhibits.
A master plan will help the zoo identify and plan for such needs. Once a master plan is prepared, the zoo can start fund-raising efforts, Wallace said.
Wallace said Imani, a 4-year-old male cheetah that escaped briefly from his exhibit and was recaptured June 26 on the zoo grounds, was back in his exhibit with Wakati, another cheetah, the day after his bid for freedom.
The chain-link fence for the cheetah exhibit has been realigned and a fourth strand of barbed wire placed atop the fence. The wire was tightened to prevent the animals from scaling the fence, Wallace said.