TACOMA — There’s a new cat in town.
After arriving in December from Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center in Kansas, Sanjiv, an 11-year-old male Sumatran tiger, made his public debut Friday at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
The 286-pound tiger is settling in well at his new Tacoma home and getting to know his care team, the zoo’s assistant coordinator Erin Pritchard said in the zoo’s announcement.
“He is a very social and expressive tiger who loves to interact with his keepers and our two female tigers,” Pritchard said.
Sanjiv has also taken a particular interest in the swinging gibbons and other species that share his Asian Forest Sanctuary home.
Sanjiv’s move to Point Defiance is part of a plan to protect the Sumatran tiger species, the zoo said.
The zoo hopes Sanjiv — already a father of four — will father cubs with either of its female tigers (Kali, 9, or Indah, 8), a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Sumatran tigers.
There are only 72 Sumatran tigers living in accredited North American zoos.
The Species Survival Plan for Sumatran tigers helps ensure the long-term future of big cats by creating a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population, said Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck, general curator at the zoo.
“We’re working hard to protect and boost the population of this critically endangered species, and the genetics of these three tigers are very valuable,” Beck said.
Zookeepers will gradually introduce Sanjiv to Kali and Indah, closely monitoring their behavior to ensure all three cats are comfortable, the zoo’s Asian animal curator Telena Welsh said.
“We’re hoping a love connection will spark — with Valentine’s Day around the corner,” the zoo said on Twitter.