The Idaho Falls Zoo is welcoming a new Amur tiger to its grounds. Eloise is coming from Oregon Zoo in Portland, where she and her sister were ready for a new space away from each other. It’s in a tiger’s nature to be alone.
“Tigers are extremely, extremely solitary. Usually, we get a lot of people that come up and say, ‘It’s so sad that she’s by herself; are you going to get her a mate?’ Tigers don’t think that way folks, they’re not people. They like to be alone,” said Sunny Katseanes, public information coordinator for Idaho Falls Zoo.
Katseanes said that when tigers mate, they come together just for that, then immediately separate. Unfortunately, Eloise is not currently a breedable tiger, and the Idaho Falls Zoo is not a tiger breeding facility. Eloise is part of what the zoo calls a “Species Survival Plan,” which looks at the tiger’s genetic diversity and history. Katseanes said when tigers breed with a tiger that is too close to them in their family tree, it can cause a lot of problems.
“Think of it as a big tiger Tinder, if you will. We do this matchmaking process across AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facilities… over 200 facilities, or facilities that hold a particular species. And there’s groups of scientific professionals that consist of zoo professionals, veterinarians, genetic scientists, and what they do is they look at the genetic lineage of these species, and match the ones that have the highest genetic diversity,” Katseanes said.
If you’ve ever brought home a new cat you know they are very shy at first and may hide for a while before getting used to their surroundings. Similarly, with large cats, Katseanes said Eloise will come out of her room and explore her enclosure when she’s ready. Until then, the tiger exhibit will be closed.