KNOXVILLE - Thousands of people visited Zoo Knoxville this weekend to get their first look at the new Tiger Forest habitat and its beautiful felines.
Tiger Forest, part of the zoo's new Asian Trek experience, opened on Friday. It will be home to the zoo's three Malayan tigers: brothers Bashir and Tanvir and a 3-year-old female named Arya.
The zoo says 8,500 visitors flocked to the zoo this weekend, and they are expecting crowds to continue to grow into the summer months.
Right now, only one of two Tiger Forest habitats are open. The second, larger habitat, which includes waterfalls, is set to open in a few weeks. Its construction was delayed by rainy weather.
Tanvir has still not made the move to Tiger Forest, but that's expected to happen soon.
Until that second habitat opens, zoo visitors won't be able to see all three tigers at the same time. Arya is being separated from the males until she's more comfortable in her new home. She was brought to Zoo Knoxville from California in January.
It's hoped she will take a liking to one of the brothers that will eventually produce a litter of adorable cubs that will keep their species from going extinct.
Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with only about 400 still living in the wild. The zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which recommends where the animals live and which ones can breed.
Work is currently under way on the next phase of the Boyd Family Asian Trek, which will feature a three story tree house overlooking tigers and new primate habitats for langurs and gibbons. It's expected to open in early 2018.
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