21 July 2012
Ramalon a bright star of hope for tiger breeding and conservation
Anticipation for new tiger cubs at Australia Zoo is building, with our breeding tiger undergoing specialist reproductive testing on Thursday.
Fingers are crossed for our 18-year-old male Sumatran tiger, Ramalon, to breed with one of our young female Sumatran tigers, who are considered the most genetically valuable captive individuals in the world.
Australia Zoo's head of tigers and international conservation manager Giles Clark said the tests were a step to ensure the success of the international breeding program.
"Breeding programs such as the one involving Ramalon go a long way to ensure the survival of the species in captivity, as well as genetic diversity amongst captive populations," Giles said.
"As well as fertility testing we today also checked for some other age-related conditions such as arthritis, dentistry issues or kidney stress, which can be a major problem for older big cats."
Although Ramalon has a strong bond with his handlers, there is no direct contact and he enjoys several large off-display enclosures.
"Our nine on-display tigers are conditioned for regular health checks, and by giving them treats we are able to do a number of examinations without the need for a general anesthetic," Giles said.
"As Ramalon has never directly interacted with our handlers, today's process was tailored to suit his situation and needs, with a general anesthetic administered for safety."
Ramalon arrived at Australia Zoo in April last year from Melbourne Zoo, where he spent most of his life after being born at Taronga Zoo in 1994.
As tigers are listed as critically endangered, Australia Zoo's tigers act as ambassadors for tigers in the wild, helping to educate visitors about the plight of the species.
"It is estimated that only 300 - 500 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, and this is largely due to habitat destruction and illegal poaching," Giles said.
Australia Zoo is currently the single largest donor to the Tiger Protection and Conservation Units (TPCU) based in Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra. The program is a partnership between Fauna & Flora International and National Park authorities, where active anti-poaching patrols protect the forest and its wildlife around the clock. It is regarded as one of the most successful tiger conservation programs in the world.