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A tearful farewell to Mencari, the oldest Sumatran Tiger in Hamilton Zoo

Mencari, the majestic Sumatran Tiger has left us (Photo Supplied)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, March 28, 2023

Hamilton Zoo’s darling Sumatran tiger Mencari passed away today at the grand age of 23.

She recently celebrated her birthday, making her the oldest living tiger and the second oldest tiger on record.

Zoo Director Dr Baird Fleming said that Mencari will be greatly missed.

“She was a special soul and a favourite amongst her keepers, who are feeling the loss deeply. While the passing of one of our animal whanau is always tough, our main priority for all animals in our care is to ensure they do not suffer,” he said.

All Zoo animals receive daily welfare checks and regular health checks. While Mencari was considered elderly, Sumatran tigers have a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild.

Dr Fleming said that she had remained active and in great condition until very recently.

A difficult decision

During the keepers’ daily interactions with Mencari, they noticed a decline in her general well-being and that she was not her usual ‘sassy self.’

The vet team was called and after close monitoring and assessments over the last few days, the difficult decision was made to euthanise her.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said that she was extremely saddened to hear of Mencari’s passing and that her thoughts were with those who took wonderful care of her over her many years at the Hamilton Zoo.

“Mencari led a remarkable life and was much-loved by not just the Hamilton Zoo team but all of us in the wider Hamilton community. She was a beautiful, familiar face for the countless people who visited her over the years and will be sadly missed by us all,” Ms Southgate said.

Hamilton Zoo Carnivore Team Leader Shane Fox described the job of caregiving to Mencari as ‘an absolute privilege.’“While we are feeling the loss of Mencari, we take comfort that we were able to step in and ensure she did not suffer,” she said.

Born at the Wellington Zoo, Mencari moved to Hamilton Zoo when she was 14 months old, with her siblings Jaka and Molek. They were the first tigers to call Hamilton their home and came as part of the Australasian breeding programme for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger.

Hamilton Zoo curator Mark Turner worked at the Wellington Zoo when Mencari, Jaka and Molek were born and he was part of the team who transferred the tigers to Hamilton.

“I brought them up here, settled them into their brand-new enclosure and that was the last I saw of them.  When I started working here in 2020, I was surprised to see Mencari alive and so sprightly and healthy at such a golden age. It has been an incredible experience to work with her again. She is a special girl and our carnivore keepers who have worked with her every day will miss her.  I know many of our visitors will also miss her,” he said.

About the Sumatran Tiger

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered with less than 400 remaining in the wild on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. Numbers continue to decline due to habitat loss from palm oil deforestation and poaching. Zoos continue to play a crucial part in the conservation efforts of these critically endangered animals.

Females Sali and her daughter Kirana remain at Hamilton Zoo. The regulars at the Hamilton Zoo will surely miss the presence of Majestic Mencari, who was indeed an integral member of the Hamilton Zoo.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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