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Zoo Atlanta welcomes new Sumatran tiger

Emerson the tiger represents a powerful conservation message and a special connection to Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta welcomes a new set of stripes to Complex Carnivores: Emerson, a 10-year-old male Sumatran tiger. Emerson is a recent arrival from the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi and has been recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP) to breed with Chelsea, the Zoo’s 13-year-old female Sumatran tiger.

Born November 24, 2006, at the Sacramento Zoo, Emerson has an interesting connection to Zoo Atlanta which may be familiar to many longtime fans. His mother was Bahagia, who was born at Zoo Atlanta in 2000 and later moved to the Sacramento Zoo.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Emerson to the Zoo Atlanta family and are very hopeful that he and Chelsea will make a great connection. This is a species that needs as much conservation action and awareness as it can possibly get,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Without the work of conservation organizations like Zoo Atlanta and its partners, Sumatran tigers are animals that may someday be found only in zoos.”

Sumatran tigers are among the most endangered mammal species at Zoo Atlanta. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are believed to number fewer than 400 in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The species faces serious pressures from habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, particularly through deforestation for palm oil plantations, and black-market poaching for skins and bones, which are believed by some cultures to have medicinal properties.

The smallest of all tigers, Sumatran tigers are one of six remaining tiger subspecies, all of which are critically endangered or endangered. Three tiger subspecies, the Caspian tiger, Javan tiger and Bali tiger, were 20th century extinctions.

A large male at around 341 pounds, Emerson has had sightings of Chelsea in the Zoo’s behind-the-scenes tiger complex but will first have an opportunity to become accustomed to his outdoor habitat before meeting the female in coming weeks. Sumatran tigers are solitary in the wild, with males and females spending time together only during breeding.

The Tiger SSP is one of many SSP programs in which Zoo Atlanta is an active contributor. SSPs seek to maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining animal populations within accredited North American zoos.

Both Emerson and Chelsea have had previous offspring with other mates. Chelsea gave birth to two cubs, Sonji and Sanjiv, in 2011. Sonji and Sanjiv now live at other zoos.

Members and guests should be on the lookout for Emerson as he explores his new habitat in Complex Carnivores. The Sumatran tiger will be one of the species highlighted at Endangered Species Day at Zoo Atlanta on Saturday, May 13, 2017. Visit to learn more or to plan your visit.

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