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Siberian tigers set to return to Toronto Zoo

Zoo officials are on the lookout for Siberian tigers to relocate to Toronto once the giant pandas leave in 2018.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are some of the largest cats in the world. They’re also endangered with only an estimated 500 remaining in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching.

AP photo

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are some of the largest cats in the world. They’re also endangered with only an estimated 500 remaining in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching.

It’s official: the big cats are coming back to Toronto Zoo.

Once home to a number of Siberian tigers and their cubs, the zoo closed the exhibit in 2013 to make room for the giant pandas Er Shun and Da Mao.

However, with the pandas slated to move to Calgary in early 2018, zoo staff have confirmed that the Siberian tiger exhibit will be returning.

Maria Franke, the zoo’s mammal curator, told Metro the zoo is in talks with other facilities to identify potential Siberian tigers to relocate to Toronto.

“I’m hoping there will be little transition time from when the pandas leave and when we have the tigers on exhibit for our guests,” she said.

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The exhibit may start with a single animal, but Franke said the “ultimate goal” is to acquire a breeding pair and contribute to conservation efforts.

The zoo was previously home to a breeding pair of Siberian tigers: male Tongua and his partner Tatiana. Tongua died in 2010 at the age of 17 following a surgery. Tatiana was euthanized in 2012, due to health problems associated with “old age,” Franke said.

Franke said the tigers were always a popular exhibit with zoo guests, especially during the winter.

“They’re cold-climate hardy, so they love our winters,” she said. “They love to romp around in the snow.”

‘Secret’ exhibit coming in 2018

In addition to the Siberian tigers, another new exhibit will be unveiled at the zoo in 2018, but officials are staying mum on the details.

Zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Tracey would only say that the exhibit pertains to “a current species at the zoo.”

In the meantime, the zoo is getting ready to cut the ribbon at its new wildlife health centre, set to open in 2017. The facility will feature a “state of the art veterinary facility and reproductive health unit,” Tracey said.

“It will be one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in North America,” she said. 

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