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A star in stripes


The Malayan tiger, Penari, paced about his yard, sniffing at a large multitiered platform before leaping to the first level and then, after hesitating and sniffing some more, springing to the second.

Children and adults stood in rapt attention, many photographing the tiger’s public debut at the ABQ BioPark Zoo on Monday after a period with no tigers at the zoo.

Penari, which means “dancer” in the Malay language, was born May 13, 2011, at the Palm Beach Zoo in Florida. He was transferred in October 2013 to the Jacksonville (Fla.) Zoo and Gardens, where he lived until his arrival in Albuquerque in February.

Penari had been quarantined for the past month while he became accustomed to his new surroundings and keepers.

bright-spot-logo“He is calm; the staff already love him, and we are thrilled that the Jacksonville Zoo was willing to send us one of their favorite tigers,” said BioPark Zoo manager Lynn Tupa. Penari has two male siblings that remain in Jacksonville, she said.

Tupa had been searching for a replacement for Scout, an 18-year-old Bengal tiger that died at the zoo in June of liver cancer. Scout’s companion of 16 years, a Bengal tiger named Lucy, died in December 2014.

Malayan tigers are in worse straits than Bengal tigers, Tupa said.

The larger Bengal tigers from India are a threatened species. Malayan tigers, indigenous to the southern and central parts of the Malayan Peninsula of Southeast Asia, are critically endangered due to habitat encroachment, poaching and the misguided use of tiger body parts in folk medicine, she said. There are less than 500 of these animals in the wild.

Malayan tigers live for 10 to 12 years in the wild and for up to 15 years in captivity, though some have lived as long as 20 years, she said. Males generally weigh about 250 pounds and females about 200 pounds.

Penari has been “well-fed” and weighs about 300 pounds, Tupa said.

For the time being, Penari will live alone in his zoo enclosure. “My hope is that, as part of the zoo’s master plan, when we expand into the Asia section, that we will get a whole new exhibit, and have enough den space and backyard holding to be able to breed and get another Malayan tiger,” she said.

In addition to Penari, other great cats at the zoo include two snow leopards, two jaguars, two African lions and two mountain lions.

In introducing Penari to the public, Mayor Richard J. Berry thanked the BioPark’s zoo professionals and their commitment to conservation, and he thanked the BioPark Society, which provided more than $100,000 used for renovating Penari’s exhibit space and paying for his transportation from Florida.

More than 1.5 million people visit BioPark attractions each year, making it the most visited site in New Mexico, Berry said.

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