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Tiger (Panthera tigris) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

History in Managed Care

Early history of tigers in managed care

  • c. 300 BC - tiger presented by King Seleucus of Syria to people of Athens (Thapar 2004)
    • Long history of tigers kept in palaces of rulers and displayed in traveling animal shows (Müller 2001)
  • 1677 - tigers displayed at Leipzig Fair, Germany (Müller 2001)

20th century records

  • Early 1900s - first open enclosure for large cats at Tierpark Carl Hagenbeck in Hamburg, Germany (Müller 2001)
  • Late 1900s - a few zoos began to display males with females, and females with cubs


Enclosure design

  • Modern enclosures emphasize a natural habitat: soil, vegetation, water features (Müller 2001)
  • Social groupings require adequate enclosure size and design (Müller 2001)
    • Allow male and female to keep out of each other's way
    • Success depends on behavior of the individuals
    • Male should never be left in enclosure with female during or just after birth or with young cubs

Environmental enrichment

  • Stereotypic pacing often seen; reduced by enrichment opportunities (Szokalski 2012)
  • Enrichment devices and techniques (Szokalski 2012)
    • Novel food items
    • Altered feeding routines and food displays
    • Novel toys/objects
    • Olfactory stimulation - novel scents
    • Increases in enclosure size, enclosure rotations
    • Social enrichment - tiger groups, human-tiger interactions
    • Visual barriers
      • Blocking view of tigers in neighboring exhibits can significantly reduce pacing

Subspecies identification

  • Knowledge of wild origins often lost after generations of breeding under managed care (Müller 2001)
  • DNA testing enables identification of subspecies and hybrids (Müller 2001)
  • Subspecies under care, as of 2000 (from Müller 2001)
    • Amur (Siberian) tigers: 600 individuals
    • Sumatran tigers: 300 individuals
    • Bengal tigers: 300 individuals
    • South China tigers: 60 individuals
    • Indochinese tigers: 50

Major breeding centers, as of 2000 (Müller 2001)

  • Amur Tiger
    • Zoologischer Garten (Leipzig, Germany)
    • Rotterdam Zoo (the Netherlands)
    • Berlin Zoo (Germany)
    • Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Park (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
  • Bengal Tiger
    • Nandankanan Zoological Park (Bhubaneswar, India)
    • National Zoological Park (New Delhi, India)
    • Zoological Garden (Calcutta, India)
  • South China Tiger
    • Shanghai Zoological Gardens (China)
    • Canton Zoo (China)
    • Suchou Zoo (China)
  • Indochinese Tiger
    • Zoo Melaka (Ayer Keroh, Malaysia)
    • Singapore Zoo (Republic of Singapore)
    • Taiping Zoo (Bukit Larut, Malayasia)

Breeding methods

  • Tigers reproduce well by natural means in zoos and breeding facilities (Brown 2011)
  • Assisted reproductive techniques have had limited success (Brown 2011) but are expected to play larger role in future to achieve species survival goals (Tilson et al. 1994)
    • Embryo transfer
    • In vitro fertilization
    • Artificial insemination
    • Gamete and embryo cryopreservation (frozen sperm, eggs or embryos)
  • Firsts in assisted reproduction
    • 1990: first live tiger births by in-vitro fertilization/embryo transfer, Omaha Zoo in collaboration with National Zoo and Minnesota Zoo (Tilson et al. 1994)
    • 1991: first live tiger birth from artificial insemination, Omaha Zoo (Tilson et al. 1994)

The issue of generic tigers

  • Term "generic" used for subspecies hybrids and/or tigers of unknown pedigree (Goff et al. 2012)
  • Hybrids from lion/tiger matings have occurred under managed care (Müller 2001)
    • Liger - offspring of male lion x female tiger
    • Tigon or tiglon - offspring of male tiger x female lion
    • Do not occur in wild due to widely separated ranges; not deliberately bred in modern zoos
  • White tigers in AZA institutions are managed under Generic Tiger SSP (Goff et al. 2012)
    • Under breeding moratorium to increase institutional capacity to breed/manage tigers of known pedigree and subspecies (Goff et al. 2012)

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Safari Park's Tull Family Tiger Trail

  • Official website
  • Exhibit features
    • Home to six Critically Endangered Sumatran tigers
    • 5.2-acre habitat
    • Tigers provided with rocks for climbing, water for swimming, and shade for resting
    • Home to other endangered species, such as orangutans, rhinos, and elephants
    • Authentic replica of a Sambutan Longhouse (for events and observing tigers)
      • In Indonesia, the longhouse is a community gathering place or a home for several families within a village
  • Tiger cam
  • History

Conservation efforts

  • San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a major contributor and supporter of the International Rhino Foundation, whose mission is to protect Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and other large mammals across Indonesia


Malayan tigers and a treat

Novel objects stimulate Malayan tigers at San Diego Zoo

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Trailing Tigers

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park's "Tiger Trail" exhibit opened in 2014.

© San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Brown (2011)
Goff et al. (2012)
Müller (2001)
Szokalski (2012)
Thapar (2004)
Tilson et al. (1994)

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