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Male Sumatran Tiger Mohan to debut Thursday at Point Defiance Zoo

April 12, 2017

12-year-old, 270-pound tiger is in Tacoma through the Species Survival Plan®

Everyone who’s laid eyes on him calls Mohan a handsome cat. He’s laid back and has adjusted to his new home well, say his keepers at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

The 12-year-old, 270-pound endangered Sumatran tiger, who arrived in Tacoma a month ago, is ready to officially meet the media and the public on Thursday.

He’s been behind the scenes for a few weeks while he got accustomed to a new home, a new routine and a new set of keepers.

But he’ll be investigating one of the exhibits in the Asian Forest Sanctuary area at the zoo on Thursday morning. Members of the media will get a sneak peek at the new tiger at 10:30 a.m.; members of the public can officially meet him beginning at noon.

Zookeepers plan to have him on exhibit all weekend, but exactly when Mohan appears and for how long depends on how comfortable he is with a new routine and the opportunity to investigate the Asian Forest Sanctuary’s outdoor spaces, Senior Staff Biologist Telena Welsh said.

Besides meeting the public, there are big plans ahead for Mohan. He came to Tacoma through the Association of Zoos’ and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for Sumatran tigers, a managed breeding program designed to increase the numbers and genetic diversity of the tiger population in North America. Plans call for him to be paired with Tacoma-born Kali through artificial insemination.

Interestingly, the two cats share the same birthday – April 17. Mohan, who was born in Memphis, turns 13 on Monday; Tacoma-born Kali turns 4.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium also is home to three other Sumatran tigers, Dumai, 4; and Dari and Kirana, 2. They and Kali are all siblings.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered. Only an estimated 300 or so remain in the wild on their native Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are just 77 in the SSP in North American zoos.

“Mohan is the second most genetically valuable male in the North American population of Sumatran tigers,” said Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck, the zoo’s general curator who is also a reproductive biologist, as well as serving as vice chair of the SSP for Sumatran Tigers. “He is a good genetic match for Kali, and we are hopeful that the two will produce offspring that will add new vigor to this small population.”

Although assisted reproductive technology has resulted in the birth of pups through the zoo’s acclaimed Red Wolf Species Survival Plan®, it has not been employed with tigers at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Goodrowe Beck said.

It is particularly indicated in this case.

Goodrowe Beck and other staff members have expertise in the field of artificial insemination among animals; and neither tiger is a good candidate for natural breeding.

Mohan has a history of aggression. Kali, a single cub, was hand raised after her mother failed to care for her at birth and does not always appropriately recognize other tigers’ behaviors. Because she was hand raised, Kali has a good relationship with her keepers and participates well in various health-care routines, Goodrowe Beck said. This will be helpful in the assisted reproduction process.

There is no timetable for any artificial insemination procedure, but it likely is many months away. It all depends on nature. Kali is just coming into sexual maturity. Artificial insemination has been a critical tool in the conservation of a number of species, including clouded leopards, black-footed ferrets and other animals, Goodrowe Beck said.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is a recognized leader in the conservation of numerous species, including Sumatran tigers. The zoo’s tigers serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, helping to teach visitors about human encroachment, deforestation and poaching that threaten to send the species to extinction.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium LogoDonations from the zoo’s Dr. Holly Reed Wildlife Conservation Fund annually support efforts to mitigate human-tiger conflict and to catch and prosecute poachers in Sumatra. Those donations have totaled more than $50,000 in the last five years.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to conserve this species for future generations,” Goodrowe Beck said. “I cannot imagine a world in which tigers cease to exist.”

To learn more about tiger conservation, go to


Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Northwest’s only combined zoo and aquarium, practices and promotes responsible stewardship of the world’s resources through education, conservation, research and recreational opportunities. The zoo, a division of Metro Parks Tacoma, is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA).


Kris Sherman: 253-226-6718 or