Tiger sisters, heading to Nashville, spend summer at Zoo Knoxville

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Tiger sisters, heading to Nashville, spend summer at Zoo Knoxville

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Zoo Knoxville is housing three Sumatran tigers for a few weeks until they can be transferred to Nashville Submitted by Zoo Knoxville

Three Sumatran tiger sisters on their way to Nashville will spend summer as guests of Zoo Knoxville.

The critically endangered felines  3-year-olds Jo, Shanti and Raza –  will eventually live in a new Nashville Zoo at Grassmere exhibit.

For now, they’ll stay in a Knoxville exhibit  near Gorilla Valley. The area was home to Zoo Knoxville’s Malayan tigers before they moved to their new Tiger Forest habitat earlier this year. 

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The Nashville Zoo hopes through it’s expansion efforts to someday be the premier zoo in the country. Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean, Jason Gonzales

Zoo visitors may or may not see the Sumatrans.  Zoo officials say it’s important to allow the animals time to get used to their new habitat. The cats can go into their indoor den if they wish and may elect not to be outdoors on public view.

Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist in the world.

Born at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas, each tiger weighs less than 200 pounds. Zoo officials say they have different personalities. Jo is calm; Raza is feisty. Shanti is very inquisitive and always interested in what her sisters or keepers are doing. Shanti is the tiger most likely to explore a new area.

When the Topeka Zoo got a new male breeding tiger, the sisters had to leave Kansas before their Nashville exhibit was complete. They’re expected to remain at Zoo Knoxville a few months.

“We are happy to be able to help our neighbors in Nashville,” says Phil Colclough, Zoo Knoxville’s Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education.  “It’s what zoos accredited by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) do as part of a collaborative team working to save animals from extinction.

“Additionally, it gives our guests the opportunity to see and learn about both Malayan and Sumatran tigers, some of the most critically endangered animals in the world.”

Jo, Shanti and Raza are moving to Nashville on recommendation of the AZA’s Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan. That plan manages the population and breeding recommendations for  Sumatran tigers in AZA-accredited zoos. 

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