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Zoo to transfer tiger cub to quake-hit Sendai

By Michael Tsai


After a slight delay due to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Honolulu Zoo is moving ahead with plans to transfer a rare Sumatran tiger to the Yagiyama Zoo in Sendai.

Three-year-old Keahi, one of three tiger cubs bound for new homes, was to have been transferred last month but the Japanese zoo requested that the Honolulu Zoo hold on to him until the situation stabilized. The Yagiyama Zoo, roughly 50 miles from the disaster site, survived the quake with minimal damage but roads leading to and from the facility were badly damaged.

"We were prepared to hold on to Keahi until after June but they called back and said the roads had been repaired and they were ready to receive him," said Ho­no­lulu Zoo director Manuel Mollinedo.

The tiger is scheduled to fly from Hawaii to Sendai, where he will be met by a zookeeper and a veterinarian on April 26.

Keahi's two siblings, Malosi and Tondi, are also awaiting transfer.

Malosi will be sent to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., although an exact date has not yet been determined.

"We don't want to rush sending him," Mollinedo said. "This time of year there can be strange weather and we don't want to risk the flight getting rerouted or delayed. We want as few stops as possible for the tiger's sake."

Tondi was to have been sent to a zoo in San Antonio but those plans have been scuttled. Mollinedo said the zoo is still looking for a suitable replacement home for the tiger.

Sumatran tigers are designated as a "critically endangered species," with as few as 400 of the tigers left in their native Sumatra. The Honolulu Zoo is part of an international network of facilities working together to preserve endangered species.

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