There were roars of excitement at Perth Zoo today as Shinyanga the lioness and Jaya the Sumatran Tiger celebrated their big cat birthdays.

Zoo keepers surprised them with birthday treats including specially made papier-mâché balloons, made by the Zoo Docent volunteers, which were smeared with meat and scattered throughout their individual exhibits.

Jaya the Sumatran Tiger was born at Perth Zoo in August 2008 whilst Shinyanga the elderly lioness was born in Dubbo, NSW in August 1999 before moving to Perth in 2012.

Perth Zoo Keeper, Emma DeMamiel, said: “At 18 years of age, Shinyanga is an elderly lioness, so it’s a significant birthday for her, and tiger birthdays are always cause for celebration since they are incredibly rare with less than 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild.”

Perth Zoo is committed to safeguarding a future for big cats and hopes these birthday celebrations will focus on the work to save both species from extinction.

A new African Lion exhibit is currently under development. Due to open next year, it will allow Perth Zoo to welcome a new pride of lions enabling the Zoo to play a bigger role in the regional breeding program for the species.

“There are only about 20,000 lions left in the wild and they’re extinct in 26 African countries, so zoos have a major role in advocating for these apex predators. Visitors to zoos can learn about lion conservation and how everyone can be a part of protecting these amazing animals."

Since 2006, Perth Zoo visitors have helped raise money to protect tigers in the wild by funding anti-poaching patrols in Sumatra. The Zoo also supports a crime analyst position for TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network which strategically fights wildlife crime and gains intelligence regarding the sale of big cat body parts and pelts on the black market.

“The best birthday gift that people could give Shinyanga and Jaya is to make a donation to Perth Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Action Program,’ said Emma.

“A $30 donation to the Zoo provides a uniform for a ranger in the tiger protection unit at Bukit Tigapulah, one of the last known habitats of Sumatran Tigers. It can often be dangerous work, but it’s important work, monitoring, tracking and protecting the tigers against poachers.”

“Donations also help support organisations in Africa that remove lethal snares from the landscape, which continue to maim and kill wild lions and other wildlife,” said Emma.

Visitors are encouraged to head down to Perth Zoo this weekend as the big cats will be receiving additional birthday treats throughout Saturday and Sunday.