Symbio Wildlife Park’s commitment to saving Sumatran tigers in the wild prompted a visit yesterday by an international leader in the fight to protect the critically endangered species.
Esther Conway is the global co-ordinator of 21st Century Tiger, a London-based organisation that raises funds for wild tiger preservation.
Ms Conway decided to visit the Helensburgh zoo after hearing of its involvement in an international breeding program to save the Sumatran tiger.
Ms Conway met Symbio operators the Radnidge family and head tiger keeper Kylie Elliott, as well as three-year-old Sumatran tigers Jalur and Cinta.
She rated their enclosure as good as anything she had seen in the world.
‘‘It is absolutely fantastic,’’ she said. ‘‘And they are beautiful, healthy looking animals.’’
Symbio managing director John Radnidge described Ms Conway’s visit as the most important in 11 years.
‘‘It is an amazing coup for us to have somebody of such stature ... in the wildlife world pay us a visit,’’ he said.
‘‘We are talking about fundraising initiatives and what we can do to contribute in a more positive and proactive way ... to the peak tiger conservation program in the world.’’
Ms Conway emphasised how smaller zoos played just as important a role as large zoos.
She said there were as few as 300 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and all funds raised in communities such as Wollongong went directly to wild tiger projects.