Zoo wants mate for surviving tiger

Zoo officials hope to find a new partner for a Siberian tiger that has been locked alone inside a labyrinth of Lion House cages since its platonic mate was shot dead after it attacked three zoo visitors.

Tatiana, the 4-year-old tiger who escaped its enclosure on Dec. 25 and killed Carlos Sousa and attacked two other men before it was shot by police, was brought to The City in 2005 for an older male tiger named Tony, according to San Francisco Zoo chief veterinarian Jacquie Jencek.

The female was not brought to the zoo to mate with Tony, which is vasectomized, but she “put a spark back in his life,” Jencek said.

The zoo’s four lions and three Sumatran tigers are also being kept in cages in the Lion House until construction work is finished on the outside enclosure, Jencek said. Construction work to prevent further cat escapes is expected to finish in February, according to a zoo spokeswoman.

“Everyone’s locked in, but Tony doesn’t have his partner all of a sudden,” Jencek said. “His world has changed.”

Tony and the zoo’s other big cats have played with toys, bathed in tubs and searched for bones hidden in cages since they became indoor-cats, according to Jencek. The Examiner was not allowed to inspect their conditions.

Cramped conditions can lead to stress, which can cause tigers to pace and lose their appetites, said Pat Derby, who cares for 38 tigers at a sanctuary near Sacramento.

“I hateto say this,” she said, “but lions and tigers in circuses live in little boxes all of their lives.”

The zoo will try to secure a new partner for Tony through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca.

San Francisco’s chances of securing another critically endangered Siberian tiger will not be harmed because of the recent tiger escape or because Tony is sterile, according to Feldman.

“It’s important,” he said, “that the animals have some companionship.”

jupton@examiner.com

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