Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan® in Action
Worldwide conservation of this endangered species is happening here!
nation's rarest tigers can be seen at Naples Zoo. All tigers are among the most endangered creatures sharing our
planet and in North America the rarest of tigers are the Malayan tiger with just about 50 cats in the country.
The Species Survival Plan works cooperatively through institutions to match the best individuals for long-term genetic health. To provide space at another accredited zoo with a new breeding facility, Naples Zoo welcomed their two male tigers which were born in March of 2009 through SSP recommendations.
"We're honored to be able to care for these endangered cats and to
be part of their survival into the future," stated Tim Tetzlaff,
Director of Conservation for the nationally accredited zoo and historic botanical garden. "Besides the
two you see here, there only about 50 others throughout our entire country."
Honors like this fall to zoos accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). "The importance of Naples Zoo belonging to the network of AZA accredited zoos and aquariums
cannot be overstated when it comes to the amazing amount of cooperation
in the conservation of wildlife," stated an AZA spokesperson. "With their combined personnel, scientific
and financial resources, zoos can truly make a difference for species
like the Malayan tiger." The rigorous requirements for AZA accreditation
insure other zoos that animals will be well cared at by another accredited institution. It also
assures the zoo will abide by breeding recommendations made by the AZA
Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinators for the long-term survival
of the species.
Guest gets up close through
the glass at Tiger Forest
Long-term survival outside the wild is crucial since the threats in Asia
are still all too real. There are an estimated 500 Malayan
tigers in the wild. And populations are often fragmented throughout mainland
Southeast Asia. Add to this the pressures of intense poaching and loss
of optimal habitat.
And although there are some signs of hope in changing attitudes and policies
in certain range
countries, the memories of what can happen when you put all your conservation
eggs in one basket are all too recent and real. "The extinction of
the Javan tigers in the 1980s was a devastating loss," explains Tetzlaff.
"The choice was made by parties involved to preserve them on Java
alone without moving any to protected areas outside the wild. But years
of habitat loss, poaching, and overhunting of tiger food sources couldn't
be overcome fast enough and now they're gone forever. And although I have
hope for the Malayan tigers in Asia, everyone wants to learn from
the past. Balinese and Caspian tigers also went extinct in the past 50
years. Nobody wants to add another tiger to the list."
With an uncertain future in Asia and so few of these cats in zoos, SSP
coordinator Mike Dulaney reinforces the need for cooperative conservation efforts. "In order to retain optimal gene diversity it will be necessary to
work with zoos and nature authorities in range countries in order to import
future founders to expand a currently small founder base. It is important,
therefore, to recruit more institutions which have tiger husbandry experience,
such as Naples Zoo, to serve as reservoirs for this genetic material
and to be able to bring to the publics' attention the plight of these
animals through education." Caring for Malayan tigers at
Naples Zoo also fulfills one the goals listed in the AZA's Annual
Report of the Tiger SSP of increasing the number of qualified institutions
managing these tigers.
And Naples Zoo's conservation efforts don't stop with tigers in
the zoo. In the late 1990s, the zoo also began supporting tiger conservation
in Asia by providing funds to the Wildlife
Conservation Society (WCS) for them to use wherever it was needed
most for tigers. "The support that Naples Zoo is providing
to WCS is greatly appreciated - unrestricted funds are like liquid gold,"
stated Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, Director of Asia Programs for WCS. "The
funds were used to support our work to develop a National Tiger Action
Plan for Cambodia." The initial survey partially funded by the zoo
revealed a newly discovered population inhabiting a relatively undisturbed
area. With that knowledge, those cats can be protected before that area
And since the zoo is not tax funded, zoo guests can feel good knowing
their admission or zoo membership support is making this conservation
of tigers possible.
for what Tetzlaff would like guests to take away from an experience with
the Malayan tigers, he states, "I hope people will come to understand
the crucial conservation role of zoos but also that it must extends far
beyond zoos. We've seen that trying to protect animals in the wild alone
can lead to unnecessary extinctions. On the other hand, we can only save
a fraction of the millions of species on earth in zoos, so we need to
do both. It's my hope that when guests see these incredibly rare cats
they will appreciate what an enormous responsibility and opportunity we
have as stewards of the earth. And I hope they'll feel a desire to make
a difference for the tigers that are struggling to survive half a planet
Some may say Tetzlaff and the zoo are already succeeding. As Dr. Howard Quigley, Director of the Global Carnivore Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, affirms, "Naples Zoo has made a significant contribution
to the conservation of wild tigers over the years. Every click of the
turnstile at Naples Zoo has helped secure a foothold for tigers
in the wild."