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Tiger celebrations this Labour Weekend

AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL
MEDIA RELEASE


16 October 2006

Join in Auckland Zoo's tiger celebrations this Labour Weekend

A tiger welcome will be in full swing at Auckland Zoo over Labour Weekend to celebrate this week's arrival of female Sumatran tiger Molek, and her recently arrived mate Oz from Israel.

Six-year-old Molek, who on Tuesday is being relocated from Hamilton Zoo to progress the international captive breeding programme for this critically endangered species, is expected to be out and about in her enclosure on Wednesday.

The three-day weekend event will celebrate these big cats' long awaited moves into their respective homes at the new Bakers Delight Tiger Territory. Monday's celebrations will also give visitors the opportunity to hear keepers talk about the young pair, and the value they hold for their species.

This marks the first time in Auckland Zoo's history that it will attempt to breed Sumatran tigers, of which there are fewer than 400 left in the wild (due to destruction of their rainforest habitat and poaching), and less than 200 in captive (zoo) facilities worldwide.

Molek is the younger sister of nine-year-old Nisha, who was to have been paired with Oz, but died suddenly in May from a stroke, stunning both Auckland Zoo staff and the community. The Zoo's Tiger Team members have visited Molek and her keepers regularly over the past months to begin the process of getting to know her, and to prepare for her arrival.

“It’s lovely for us that she is Nisha’s sister. She’s a beautiful cat, very outgoing, and our spending time getting to know her personality and how she interacts will really help us in developing the bond that we need to build with her,” says Auckland Zoo keeper Sandra Rice, who is currently in Hamilton helping prepare for Molek's trip north.

Hamilton Zoo Director and Australasian Species Management Programme (ASMP) Committee member Stephen Standley says Molek's relocation to Auckland is a positive move.

"Molek has been a prominent member of Hamilton Zoo's Sumatran tiger family and we'll miss her greatly, but we're pleased that her relocation to Auckland Zoo will give her the opportunity to breed as part of the Australasian regional breeding programme," says Standley.

"Sumatran tigers face severe survival challenges in the wild, and managed breeding programmes provide an insurance population should they become extinct in the wild. Although Molek will be leaving her two siblings behind, she will be making a significant contribution to the regional breeding progamme by breeding with Oz."

Along with education and captive breeding, Auckland Zoo actively supports Sumatran tigers in the wild, through the 21st Century Tiger Kerinci Seblat Project. The project's Tiger Protection and Conservation Units are focused on halting the poaching and trafficking of Sumatran tigers, and on protecting prey species and habitat within Kerinci Seblat National Park, and its buffer zones.

This Labour Weekend (21 - 23 October) is a fantastic opportunity to be among the first to see both Oz and Molek at Bakers Delight Tiger Territory. Throughout the weekend there will be a collectable Oz Top Trumps card for every child, and on Monday from 11am to 2pm, the real party kicks off, with tiger face painting, live entertainment, tasty giveaways from Bakers Delight, and zookeeper tiger talks.

For further details visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz or (09) 360-3819. For more about Sumatran tigers visit www.savethetiger.org.nz or www.21stcenturytiger.org

ENDS

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