Zoo Knoxville visitors can now get closer to Malayan tigers than ever before.
The new Tiger Forest habitat opened to the public on Friday morning. It is home to Bashir and Tanvir, 8-year-old brothers, and newcomer Arya, a 3-year-old female.
Located where the rhino exhibit used to be, Tiger Forest is part of the Boyd Family Asian Trek,which will eventually be home to more birds and primates.
With viewing areas at multiple levels, visitors will get a great view of the three tigers as they move around their 1.5 acre habitat that includes trees, pools, and lounging areas. If you are lucky, you may even get to go eye to eye (but safely through a glass wall) with one of these beautiful big cats on your next visit.
It's hoped that eventually Arya will mate with one of the 8-year-old males and produce some cubs. Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with only about 400 living in the wild.
Arya came to Knoxville in January from the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California and has acclimated very well to her new home, though she has not yet met her adoring public. She's also not met face to face yet with the males, but she and Bashir have seen each other from separate enclosures. The zoo says there was a little hissing, but the two mostly stared at each other. Hear more about their encounter in the zoo's video:
The cats are at the zoo through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan. That cooperative among zoos recommends where the animals live and which tigers breed.
The zoo plans to hold daily demonstrations in Tiger Forest so visitors will learn more about the big cats.