The first of two critically-endangered Sumatran tigers to call Ballarat home has arrived at Ballarat Wildlife Park after a mammoth 24 hour road trip from Queensland.
Maneki, 11, arrived in Ballarat about 3pm on Tuesday after a 1770km drive from Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast.
A multi-million dollar new enclosure has been built at the wildlife park for Maneki, and a male Sumatran tiger expected to arrive in the coming weeks, as part of a new Global Conservation Precinct to house endangered species.
"She's a little bit displaced and disoriented and resting from the exhausting trip," Ballarat Wildlife Park owner Greg Parker said.
"Keepers are sitting with her, talking to her, keeping her company and just reassuring her. They are doing it very slowly and quietly. How well we settle her in will set how well she goes in the next few months."
Maneki will be given time to settle in and will not be on public display until keepers feel she is ready, which is likely to be after Christmas.
Ballarat's H Troon built the enclosure, which features world-standard security and vantage points for the tigers and park visitors. Works were finished in the past few weeks, with final checks and approvals completed.
"We are happy and Maneki is happy," Mr Parker said. "She's beautiful, she's pretty relaxed and has been surveying the landscape. She's got quite a good view from where the enclosure is and she loves the vantage point across Ballarat."
The long journey from the Sunshine Coast to Ballarat was a logistical feat in itself, with four drivers on the team to allow for a continuous trip. Maneki travelled in a purpose built crate and air conditioned truck with a team of keepers from the two zoos by her side.
Maneki, whose name comes from the Japanese phrase "maneki neko" which means good luck cat, was born in captivity and hand-raised at Australia Zoo where the 85kg feline gained a reputation as being affectionate towards her handlers.
Mr Parker said Sumatran tigers were the shyest and smallest of the tiger species and, sadly, the rarest with as few as 300 Sumatran tigers surviving in the wild.
"They are beautiful, wonderful animals who we would hate to see become extinct," he said.
The Sumatran Tiger population is dropping rapidly due to clearing of their natural habitat for farming and palm oil plantations, as well as poaching of tigers for markets and medicine trade.
"That's why we decided we want to help prevent any further decline if we can and get involved. Hopefully they will become great ambassadors and fundraisers for the work we are doing in Indonesia to help stave off extinction."
The Ballarat Wildlife Park is supporting the tiger conservation efforts via the Tiger Protection Conservation Unit (TPCU), who are known for disabling snares, following leads, solving tiger-human conflict and providing evidence for legal proceedings. Their continual work is contributing to saving the Sumatran tiger species.
The two Sumatran tigers that will call Ballarat home are part of a Global Species Management Plan and will be ambassadors for helping their wild cousins survive in the wild through education programs and promotion of conservation initiatives.
In the coming weeks Maneki will be joined by a male Sumatran tiger, also from Australia Zoo.
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