Siberian Tigers’ journey from Cyprus to Darjeeling ends India’s 12-year drought

Indian zoos’ long wait for Siberian Tigers ended Saturday after two big cats brought from Cyprus as part of an exchange programme will find a home at Darjeeling’s Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park .

Officials said the two Siberian Tigers arrived at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata from Cyprus’ Pafos Zoos on Saturday evening. From the airport, they were escorted to the Darjeeling zoo by a team from Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park and will reach their destination by Sunday. In exchange, the zoological park has sent two Red Pandas to Pafos Zoo.

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“The proposal went out about a-year-and-half back. We have got two Siberian Tigers from Cyprus and are ready to welcome them. Under the exchange programme, we have sent a pair of Red Pandas,” Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park director Basavraj S Holeyachi told The Sunday Express over phone.

According to authorities, the last Siberian Tiger in the country ‘Kunal’ died in November 2011 at the Nainital Zoo. He died at the age of 18 due to age-related ailments. He was brought to India at the age of three.

Zoological Survey of India’s officer in charge (mammals) Mukesh Thakur said, “To my knowledge, there are no Siberian Tigers in captivity in the country.”

Festive offer

The last Siberian Tiger at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park died in 2007.

“The last Siberian Tiger in this zoo passed away in 2007. We have modified its enclosure, where we will keep the pair for public view. However, for a month after their arrival, the pair will be quarantined in a special enclosure and will undergo health check-ups. The public will be able to see these animals only after a month. I think there are no Siberian Tigers in any Indian zoo right now,” said Holeyachi.

The male and female Siberian Tigers are one and a half years old. The Red Pandas sent to Pafos Zoo are six years (male) and two years old (female). The pandas were bred at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. Currently, the zoo has nine male and 15 female Red Pandas.

Established in August 1958, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is the largest high-altitude zoo in the country. It has been successful in conservation breeding of 10 animals including Red Pandas, Snow Leopards and Blue Sheep.

“As we have a male and a female Siberian Tiger now, we would try captive breeding in the zoo. We are currently running captive breeding programmes for a number of animals including the Red Panda and Snow Leopard,” added Holeyachi.


Siberian Tigers are mainly found in parts of Russia and China and are distinguished from other tiger subspecies by their orange coat with black stripes and thick fur. Considered by many experts as the world’s largest tiger, the male Siberian tiger can grow over 12 feet with a tail over 3 feet long and weigh over 400 kg. Their female counterparts are, however, smaller in size.