WEST PALM BEACH, FL (PALM BEACH ZOO) - Three tiger brothers from the Palm Beach Zoo are making their way to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens for an estimated late afternoon arrival.
Zookeepers said transferring Jaya, Bunga and Penari to the moving truck went smoothly, after two months of precise planning and intense training to ensure a safe tiger transport. The tigers were anesthetized before going into their steel shipping crates, which have hay with familiar smells from the Palm Beach Zoo to keep them comfortable. Once they were in their shipping crates, the tigers woke up and seemed calm.
A veterinarian and the Jacksonville Zoo mammal curator are accompanying the tigers in the climate-controlled large truck, to monitor the animals during the trip to their new permanent home.
"The folks at the Palm Beach Zoo were on top of everything," said Craig Miller, Jacksonville Zoo curator of mammals. "These are the first tigers for the new 'Land of the Tiger' exhibit. We have been doing construction on it for months, so this finally makes it feel real."
A dozen Palm Beach Zoo employees and veterinary staff members were on hand for the triple shipment. Leading up to the transfer, staff members coordinated everything from the cats' diets, to filling out paperwork and providing their medical histories.
"It takes a lot to plan a move, to make it seamless and healthy for the animals," said Jan Steele, general curator for Palm Beach Zoo. "They're accustomed to their keepers, who remained with them throughout this entire process. They've all been crate-trained, so this is quite comfortable for them. The health and safety of our animals is always our top priority."
"It's very difficult seeing them leave, after seeing them born and watching them grow up," said Nancy Nill, associate curator for the Palm Beach Zoo. "It's like your child graduating, so it is bittersweet."
Nill confessed to having a tearful moment, watching the tigers as they were loaded onto the truck. "I did break down, especially when Jaya went in," she admitted. "But I know they are going to a wonderful place. This is for the survival of their species, for them to mate and have families. So there is that satisfaction -- this is for the greater good."
Once the tigers arrive in Jacksonville, they will stay in quarantine for 30 days. They will remain behind-the-scenes, until a March 2014 debut of a 2.5-acre exhibit called "Land of the Tiger".