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Full Circle

“Wow, mom!” the child exclaimed with a smile. “Look at him!”

Jai, a male Sumatran tiger, slowly approaches his pool for a quick dip. He spent the last several minutes relaxing in the shade underneath a massive tree.

“Isn’t he amazing?” her mom replied. “What a breathtaking animal. Can you believe how close we are?”

After emerging from his own personal pond, Jai shakes off the excess water as the morning sun effortlessly highlights his trademark orange and black stripes.

“I just love him,” said the awe-struck little girl before pausing for a brief instant.

“He is perfect.”

***

The moment lasted no more than 30 seconds, but its impact will endure forever.

Tigers have such rare beauty… such majesty… they often don’t seem real. In many ways, they are the ultimate dichotomy. Gorgeous to look at, but an insatiable predator. Equal parts feared and revered. We marvel in their splendor, yet fewer than 4,000 remain in the wild.

The indelible bond the little girl made at our Isle of the Tiger habitat is but a fraction of the life-changing connections that occur at the Phoenix Zoo every single day. Every inspiring memory created, however, is the culmination of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of individuals behind the scenes.

Zookeepers go above and beyond the call of duty in their care for the tigers on a daily basis, our horticulture team ensures their sprawling home is lush with vegetation similar to that of Indonesia, custom diets are created for each tiger every day of the year by our nutrition services department and our entire staff, as a whole, communicates the importance of conservation with the over one million guests who visit the Zoo annually.

Furthermore, at our Joyce Corrigan Animal Care Center, a remarkable team of veterinarians and vet-techs provide unrivaled, around-the-clock care for these gorgeous cats – from routine check-ups to comprehensive, detailed procedures. For example, earlier this year, Suriya, a female Sumatran tiger, had ophthalmic implants surgically placed in both eyes to treat her chronic keratitis (corneal inflammation). These ophthalmic implants release medication over time to treat this inflammation and currently appear to be dramatically improving her clinical signs.

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Just as the Zoo’s Sumatran tigers depend on us for their care and survival, so do those outside the AZA’s managed population. In the summer of 2018, the ACNC welcomed Dr. Tara Harris as our new Director of Conservation and Science. Previously based at the Minnesota Zoo, Dr. Harris is the Coordinator of the AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan® and its Tiger Conservation Campaign (TCC). As part of her transition to our team, the Phoenix Zoo took on the role of co-hosting the TCC, a major project designed to secure a future for wild tigers by raising funds for on-the-ground tiger conservation projects while subsequently providing tangible ways of encouraging people to take actions in their own lives that support healthy habitat for tigers.

“Tigers capture our imaginations with their magnificence,” said Dr. Harris. “But this incredibly popular species is highly endangered in the wild and they needour help. Since its inception in 2012, over 60 zoos and aquariums and numerous individuals have contributed over $1,000,000 to the TCC, helping fund projects that combat threats to wild tigers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Russia. While continuing to raise funds for these projects, the TCC is also raising awareness about how our everyday actions impact tigers around the world.”

In fact, the Phoenix Zoo was one of the first supporters of the TCC, and is currently one of its largest funders. Now with the Zoo as a co-host, Harris will utilize the vast experience of all Zoo staff to help save tigers and, by association, other animals as well. Tigers range across large portions of Asia, and protecting them has an added benefit of helping save many other endangered species – such as pangolins and hornbills – that share the same space but do not garner nearly as much attention or funding.

“We have provided financial support for the work of the TCC for a number of years, initially during the fundraising phase for the new tiger exhibit as part of the World Class Zoo for a World Class City capital campaign,” said Ruth Allard, Executive Vice President of Conservation and Education at the Phoenix Zoo. “As we were asking for help to build a new habitat for the tigers in our care here in Phoenix, we wanted to be sure to have a strong answer when asked what we’re doing to protect Sumatran tigers in the wild.”

Increasing the population of wild tigers is an uphill battle, to put it mildly. Tigers are facing a number of substantial threats including habitat loss, poaching, prey depletion, tiger-human conf lict and disease. Alarmingly, it is estimated that 40 percent of tiger habitat was lost between 1995 and 2005 alone.

The survival of tigers – both at the Zoo and in the wild – is dependent on the combined efforts of many groups and individuals, including the tigers’ closest neighbors. Only by recognizing the complex relationships between resident communities and tigers, and supporting and encouraging the participation of local people in conservation programs, will success be possible.

Remarkably, the Sumatran tigers at the Zoo comprise just one species out of a total of over 400 represented. The supporting characters in this story, though, have starring roles in the health and well-being of all 3,000 animals who call the Zoo home.

The ACNC is a beautiful, complex tapestry.

Each fiber – including you – has a significant role in weaving us together.


The Phoenix Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, including 30 species that are endangered or threatened. From the tiniest of insects to the largest of mammals, the Zoo is proud to care for these great creatures.

Below are just some of the many animals you’ll encounter during your visit to the Zoo!

Please note that due to the nature of caring for wild animals, there may be times certain animals are not on exhibit.