Friday was a big day for two residents of the Edmonton Valley Zoo. The newly expanded 16,000-square foot tiger habitat opened for the zoo’s two Amur (formerly Siberian) tigers — Amba and Taiga.
“Having such a large space just gives them more exercise, it gives us the ability to change that environment more so that every day — just like in the wild if they’re migrating around — they’re going to see something different,” Zoo attendant Brenda McComb said.
Construction on the habitat began in 2019, funded by donations to the Valley Zoo Development Society. The $1.1 million expansion includes two new viewing areas for visitors and improved security. The area is split into two yards — one for each tiger, who actually prefer to be apart.
“The more space they have, the better. They are very large cats and they are solitary. So naturally they want to be alone and they want to experiment in their environment,” McComb said.
The tigers were born 11 years ago in Montreal but have grown up at the Edmonton zoo.
The expanded habitat will allow zoo keepers to provide additional training for the tigers, McComb said.
“We’ll be able to move all around the exhibit to train them because these tigers know a lot of behaviours, and the behaviours they know allow us to be around them safely and allow them to participate in their own care.”
Edmonton Valley Zoo director Lindsey Galloway said keeping the zoo’s two tiger’s healthy and happy is especially important because the big cats are endangered.
“Sadly there are only about 500 Amur tigers left in the wild. They used to be called Siberian tigers but they’re not found in Siberia anymore.”
“The final remaining populations are in the Amur Valley in Russia,” Galloway said.
In the wild, the tigers are now only found in the eastern Russia Amurussuri region of Primorye and Khabarovsk. The hope is the new space will allow the zoo to participate in breeding programs.
The new tiger habitat is the latest in a series of projects in the zoo’s ongoing renewal. Since 2012, the zoo has opened the new Entry Plaza, Wander Trail and Arctic Shores sections, upgraded the lemur habitat, reptile wing, nocturnal wing, veterinary hospital, and in 2019 opened Nature’s Wild Backyard Phase 1.
The zoo reopened on June 15 after a three-month closure due to COVID-19.