Plans change for Honolulu Zoo's tiger cubs

Sidney Quintal
Sidney Quintal

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu Zoo's three tiger cubs had new homes lined up, but now those plans have changed. One of the endangered animals was supposed to be shipped to Sendai last week, but after Japan's disaster zookeepers on Oahu will continue caring for the cub and its brother, who is also waiting to move.

Visitors are fascinated by the six Sumatran tigers at the Honolulu Zoo. The animals are critically endangered. Experts estimate there are less than 500 of them left in the wild. The three cubs born in Hawaii in 2008 could play an important role in the survival of the species.

"The breeding program is very critical so we don't dilute the genetic makeup of the animals," explained Sidney Quintal of the Department of Enterprise Services.

The cub named Keahi was scheduled to be transferred to the Yagiyama Zoo in Sendai, but the earthquake and tsunami changed everything.

"The zoo itself is in fairly good condition, however, the surrounding area and the support for the animals at the zoo is difficult," said Quintal.

The zoo in Japan features roughly 550 animals representing 145 species. It's still unclear how long Keahi's move will be delayed.

"They have requested that if we could still hang on to him until a time that they can take him, they would really be appreciative of that, and we are more than happy to assist them," Quintal said.

Keahi's brothers are also preparing for changes. Malosi will be leaving for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. soon. Tondi was supposed to travel to Texas, but that plan fell through. Officials are now searching for a new home for him. It's all part of the species survival plan program which focuses on animals in danger of extinction.

"We're going to miss them, but we understand in the SSP program that it's important to send them on to do their job for the species that they represent," said Quintal.

Once the cubs are gone the Honolulu Zoo hopes to welcome some new members to its family.

"Once all of the boys are gone we've been given permission by SSP to put Berani and Chrissie together again, and hopefully have another litter," Quintal said.