Giraffes and tigers, oh my! Mississippi zoo welcomes new animals

Published 8:48 pm Saturday, October 14, 2023

A Mississippi zoo welcomed two new animals last week.

The Hattiesburg Zoo first announced a third Reticulated Giraffe known as Grace joined Sue Ellen and Alberta. Grace and Alberta (AKA Bertie) are half-sisters as the two share a father.

Grace is 2 ½ years old and has come to the Hattiesburg Zoo from the Audubon Species Survival Center. “Grace is of breeding age and the Audubon Species Survival Center chose to move her to our zoo rather than place her on birth control,” said Kristen Moore, Hattiesburg Zoo’s animal curator. “We are pleased they chose the Hattiesburg Zoo as the home for Grace.”

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“Sue Ellen and Bertie have thrived here in our care, and we expect that Grace will be a good fit in regard to compatibility,” continued Moore.

“When considering adding Grace to our tower, we looked at several factors including space and facility resources,” said Jeremy Cumpton, director of Conservation, Education and Wildlife. “Both our giraffe barn and their outdoor yard far exceed the animal husbandry guidelines for space required, and we built our facilities with the goal of adding to our giraffe population.”

According to the guidelines, the Hattiesburg Zoo’s Giraffe yard would easily hold 10 giraffes. “While we don’t intend to grow to 10 giraffes, we do have space that allows for additional giraffes when it is appropriate,” said Moore.

“We are so very excited to bring a third giraffe to the Hattiesburg Zoo,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission which oversees and manages the operation of the Hattiesburg Zoo in cooperation with the City of Hattiesburg. “Our guests make the Giraffe yard one of their first stops during their visit, and I know this will add to their enthusiasm.”

Grace will be quarantined inside the giraffe barn for 30 days before joining Sue Ellen and Bertie in the yard. She should be in the outdoor exhibit near the middle of November for guests to see.

“We hope that Grace will also join Sue Ellen and Bertie for feedings with guests sometime next year,” said Cumpton. “It will take her some time to get comfortable with her surroundings and with people, but we are looking forward to watching as her personality develops.”

The zoo is also now home to a new tiger after losing a beloved tiger earlier this year.

Bunga is the first Malayan tiger to reside at the Hattiesburg Zoo. Kipling, who died from age-related health issues in May of this year, was a Sumatran tiger. Sumatran tigers are the smallest of the tiger species with a dark orange coat while the Malayan tiger is bigger with a lighter orange coat.

“With Malayan tigers being critically endangered, we hope our guests will understand the importance of the preservation and growth of this species to our planet,” said Cumpton.

Because of the loss of natural forest and the poaching of the Malayan tiger the population has dwindled.

Upon his arrival at the Hattiesburg Zoo, Bunga was introduced to his holding area to become familiar with his animal care team.

Bunga, pronounced (Boon-ya), which means Big Boy, as he was the largest cub born in his litter. Bunga is 12 years old and comes to the Hattiesburg Zoo from the ABQ Biopark Zoo in Albuquerque, N.M. Malayan tigers are native to the Peninsular Malaysia and are a critically endangered species.

“While Malayan tigers typically live to be 18 to 22 years of age in a zoo environment, we recognize the fact that Bunga is an older tiger,” said Moore. “We are happy to be a ‘retigerment home’ for Bunga and know that he will be well cared for by our staff and much loved by our guests who will learn more about the habits and characteristics of Malayan tigers from him.”

Bunga is settling in at the Hattiesburg Zoo! He is adjusting to his new care staff and his new habitat.

It will likely be next week before Bunga is outside where guests can see him.