Community & Environment

World’s second oldest Sumatran tiger turns 22 at Hamilton Zoo

Image of Mencari the tiger at Hamilton Zoo

One of Hamilton Zoo’s oldest residents – a Sumatran tiger named Mencari – today celebrates her 22nd birthday.

Living to more than 20 years is no mean feat for any tiger: with a life expectancy of 15 years in the wild, Mencari is currently the second oldest captive Sumatran tiger recorded in the world.

Hamilton Zoo staff are delighted to be celebrating the big cat’s milestone birthday.

“Mencari is definitely a favourite amongst her keepers,” said Samantha Jeune, Hamilton Zoo’s Carnivore Team Zookeeper.

“Solitary by nature, Mencari lives on her own, but has visual access to her neighbours, mum and daughter pair, Sali and Kirana.

“She is very confident in herself and is our ‘queen bee’ for sure.”

Born in Wellington Zoo on 10 January 2000, Mencari and her two siblings moved to Hamilton Zoo at 14 months of age as part of the Australasian breeding programme for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger subspecies.

While the tiger’s littermates Jaka and Molek moved on to Auckland, Mencari has remained with Hamilton Zoo. Being such a long-term resident, the team have gotten to know Mencari well, and enjoy giving her different treats. These include chicken, blood ice blocks on hot days, pet milk, and even a sprinkling of ground cloves around her habitat, as tigers love rolling and ‘smooching’ anything with a clove-like smell.

Hamilton Zoo’s current Curator, Mark Turner, was working at Wellington Zoo when Mencari and her siblings were born and was involved in bringing the three tigers to Hamilton Zoo in 2001. In 2020, he joined Hamilton Zoo as Carnivore Team Leader and was once again reunited with Mencari.

“Much to my surprise, Mencari was still here and doing well,” Turner said.

“It has been an incredible experience to again work with her after such a long time.”

Part of the big celebrations will mean thoroughly spoiling the tiger – as any birthday girl should expect to be.

“We will offer Mencari her favourite food, as well as an ice block ‘cake’ to get into,” said Jeune.

While not confirmed yet, the team is also wanting to organise canvases for Mencari to do some painting. This would involve encouraging her to walk through feline-friendly paint across the canvas and ‘paint’ pawprints, with the tiger artworks to be sold to the public, the proceeds going towards tiger conservation efforts in Sumatra.

There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild, primarily due to deforestation and poaching, with tiger parts still being traded on the black market. Zoos continue to play a crucial part in the conservation efforts of critically endangered animals.

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