Will tiger Oz earn his stripes with our Sali?

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 17:36 28/11/2013
Waikato Times

Hamilton and Auckland Zoos have swapped two male Sumatran Tigers Jaka and Oz. The shift of Oz to Hamilton is also a move to help with the breeding programme.

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Oz the tiger has made a grand growling entrance to Hamilton Zoo.

The Sumatran tiger was transported down from Auckland Zoo this morning as Hamilton Zoo prepared their male tiger, Jaka, for a swap.

Nine-year-old Oz, who relocated from Tel Aviv to Auckland in 2006 and fathered Auckland Zoo's first tiger cubs with Jaka's sister Molek in 2008, has moved to Hamilton Zoo to be paired up with five-year-old Sali.

Oz was caged up in a crate and transported into the tiger enclosure by forklift, as Jaka, who was calmly resting in his own crate, wasshipped out.

Oz will remain in his crate until zookeepers are happy that he is calm enough to roam in the caged den, then will remain in there until he is comfortable enough to stretch his legs in the larger safari like enclosure.

There would be a period of separation before Oz was allowed in to Sali's territory to begin their romance.

Hamilton Zoo curator Samantha Kudaweh believed the pair would get on like a house on fire.

"Sali is probably more goofy than she is feisty... I think they're quite similar in their personalities from what I understand they're both pretty easygoing goofy personalities," she said.

The zoo was very excited to get their first opportunity to breed Sumatran tigers and contribute to the conservation of the species - which has fewer than 400 tigers living in the wild.

"Sali is a very popular tiger with all who get to known her. She is a lovely playful young female and we're very hopeful she'll prove to be a good mother," Mrs Kudaweh said.

Auckland Zoo carnivore team leader, Bruce Murdoch, said it was a "bittersweet" occasion as they were sad to see Oz go but excited to have Jaka joining their family.

Mr Murdoch said Oz's growling was anticipated and they had taken steps to calm him, even bringing along his favourite tyre, which he said was like a "dummy" to Oz.

"Whenever you move tigers, they're not gunna be happy being in a box for very long, but this is a nice easy move, it's just down the road."

It is unknown when Oz will be on display for the public, and Mrs Kudaweh said it was all up to his behaviour. 

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- Waikato

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