Auckland Zoo has today welcomed two young Sumatran tigers from zoos in the United States as part of an international breeding and advocacy programme for this critically endangered big cat.

Five-year-old male Ramah from Oklahoma City Zoo and four-year-old female Zayana from Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center (Kansas), who arrived in Auckland early this morning and have now begun their required 30-day quarantine period, will in time be paired with the goal of breeding.

“Today’s a really exciting day for us all! International animal transfers like this take an incredible amount of planning and are logistically complex. It’s always an amazing team effort between the participating zoos and relevant authorities to successfully achieve, and Ramah and Zayana’s moves here have been no exception,” says Auckland Zoo’s curator of mammals, Warren Spencer.

“These two young cats come to us with a breeding recommendation from the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (WAZA) Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for Sumatran tigers and bring valuable new genetics to enhance and sustain the Australasian region’s population. With fewer than 400 of these extraordinary tigers remaining in Sumatra, Ramah and Zayana (and we hope their future offspring!) will, like tiger Sali, also play a vital role as advocates for their wild cousins and inspire our visitors to join us in helping conserve them in the wild.”

Ramah and Zayana must undertake a week-long international (MPI) quarantine that requires them to remain in their inside care quarters. However, once completed and they are given the ‘all-clear’, Zoo visitors may see them outside in the new South East Asia Jungle Track lowlands habitat, where they’re able to complete the rest of their month-long quarantine.

Carnivore team leader Lauren Booth describes the new tiger habitat as an incredibly dynamic and enriching space for these primarily solitary big cats.

“It’s so great to finally have Ramah and Zayana here, there’s been a lot of anticipation! We know from our counterparts at Oklahoma and Topeka zoos that they’re both lovely young tigers and are so looking forward to getting to know and build relationships with them, and especially - enabling our visitors to experience them,” says Lauren.

“A real highlight as they settle in, will be seeing how they explore and use the three different spaces within our amazing new tiger habitat, which we can enable them to access via the inter-connecting tiger bridges. They’ve got such a diversity of terrains and habitat features – with the ability to be up high on the bridges and high ridges (something these apex predators naturally love), cool off in the pool and waterfall and beach areas, or rest and shelter in outdoor dens or in the shade of bamboo stands.

“This habitat’s design, which provides us keepers with such great flexibility in the way we can care for and manage these cats, enables Ramah and Zayana to be able to patrol the different areas of their territory – just as these solitary cats would do in the wild. They’ll come across each other’s smells and scents, scat (faeces) and footprints, as well as tiger Sali’s. When up high, as well as being above visitors, they’ll also have the enriching experience of spotting other wildlife – like the otters in their adjoining lowlands habitat, and the orangutans and siamangs when they’re up on their aerial pathways over the lake,” explains Lauren.

Auckland Zoo’s colleagues at Topeka Zoo say they are thrilled to be participating in this international effort for tigers.

“The Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center has an extremely successful Sumatran tiger program and sending Zayana to such a renowned zoo as Auckland is an honour,” says its curator, Shanna Simpson. “We are looking forward to seeing all the amazing things Ramah, Zayana and the Auckland staff accomplish for tiger husbandry, breeding, and welfare.” 

For updates about Ramah and Zayana, including when these two tigers will have access to their outdoor habitats, be sure to check the Zoo’s social channels and website.

Tiger Fast Facts

  • The ‘Critically Endangered’ Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) from the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, is the smallest of the world’s remaining tiger sub-species. (According to the IUCN, there are currently 6 sub-species: Sumatran, Bengal, Indo-Chinese, South China, Amur, and Malayan)
  • Today fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, with habitat loss and poaching continuing to be their greatest threats.
  • Internationally within zoos, there are close to 400 Sumatran tigers that are part of the zoos’ global breeding and advocacy programme for this species
  • As apex (top) predators, tigers play a vital role in maintaining the harmony of their ecosystems. By preying on herbivores, tigers help to keep the balance between prey animals and the forest vegetation which they feed upon
  • Auckland Zoo’s tigers: Auckland Zoo is now home to three Sumatran tigers: Elderly female Sali (14.5 years) who relocated from Hamilton Zoo in April 2022; Five-year-old male Ramah (born at Oklahoma Zoo in 2017); and four-year-old female Zayana (born at Topeka Zoo in 2018). These two young tigers have relocated from these American zoos following a breeding recommendation from the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (WAZA) Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for Sumatran tigers.
  • Conservation: For many years Auckland Zoo has supported Wild Cats Conservation Alliance whose work monitoring and protecting wild tiger populations is crucial to preventing the extinction of these remarkable big cats. The Zoo also supports the Sumatran Ranger Project (SRP). SRP’s rangers work in collaboration with local communities, to protect the wildlife (including tigers) and habitats of Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra – part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most diverse habitats on Earth. Learn more here -