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Meet Sanjiv: Sumatran tiger makes his first public appearance at Point Defiance Zoo

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered in the wild, with only about 400 to 500 remaining on their native Indonesian island of Sumatra.

TACOMA, Wash. — An 11-year-old male Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv made his first public appearance at Point Defiance Zoo Friday morning.

Staff at the zoo said Sanjiv is doing well and settling in at his new home.

“He is a very social and expressive tiger who loves to interact with his keepers and our two female tigers,” said Assistant Curator Erin Pritchard. “He’s always chuffing and vocalizing, and he’s fascinated with the swinging gibbons and other species that share his Asian Forest Sanctuary home.”

The 286-pound tiger arrived in December on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Sumatran tigers, according to zoo staff.

The plan calls for Sanjiv to father cubs with either of the zoo’s female tigers: Kali, 9, or Indah, 8. Sanjiv has fathered four cubs in the past.

“We’re working hard to protect and boost the population of this critically endangered species, and the genetics of these three tigers are very valuable,” said General Curator Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck. “Species Survival Plans help ensure a healthy, genetically diverse, and self-sustaining population to ensure the long-term future of these majestic big cats.”

There are about 72 Sumatran tigers living in accredited North American zoos. They are critically endangered with about 400 to 500 remaining on their native Indonesian island of Sumatra. The species faces intense pressure from habitat loss and fragmentation, black-market poaching, human-tiger conflict, and loss of prey, according to Point Defiance Zoo staff.

"We are kind of on a precipice with a lot of different species right now, where unfortunately, there are a lot of species that are going extinct or are on their way to going extinct," Asian animal Curator Telena Welsh said. "And tigers are one of those, and we're really trying to shine a spotlight on that, so people know that we're in a very significant time where if we don't take action, we are likely going to lose tigers for future generations."

Annelise Onorati from Puyallup said her kids love the zoo, and when she heard about Sanjiv, she brought them out for the tiger's debut. She said she appreciates that this is available for her family.

"We're very fortunate to be where we're at and have access to this, and we certainly make use of that ability whenever we can," Onorati said.

Guests can meet Sanjiv in the zoo’s Asian Forest Sanctuary on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and talk with the keepers who care for him at daily keeper chats. 

The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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