1st pair of Siberian tigers in India after 12 years arrives in Darjeeling

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Two endangered Siberian tigers have arrived at Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in West Bengal’s Darjeeling years after the last such big cat died in India at the Nainital Zoo in November 2011 due to age-related problems.

The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, the highest altitude in India, hosted a Siberian tiger until 2007. Lara and Akamas arrived there on Sunday night in two special ambulances from the Kolkata airport. They were flown from Cyprus as a part of an animal exchange programme.

“They are healthy and have been kept in quarantine in separate enclosures and would be shifted to another enclosure for public view after a month,” said Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park director Basavraj Holeyachi.

“As a part of the animal exchange programme, we sent a pair of Red Pandas to Cyprus’s Pafos Zoo. The Darjeeling Zoo is internationally recognised for its conservation and breeding programme for the Red Panda. The zoo has 25 Red Pandas,” said Holeyachi.

The first ex-situ snow leopard conservation breeding programme started at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in 1986. The Red Panda project began four years later.

Kunal, 18, and another Siberian tiger Mahesh were sent to Nainital in March 1997 from Darjeeling. Mahesh died in 2001.

In 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that there were around 265 to 486 Siberian tigers in eastern Russia. The species were also found in China and possibly North Korea.