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Homeward bound: Why Sacramento Zoo tiger moved back to San Francisco

Jillian, the 213-pound Sumatran tiger, celebrates her birthday

Sumatran tiger cub Jillian turned one on February 10, 2014. Check out this San Francisco Zoo video of her enjoying birthday gifts, which include a frozen ice cake and a bubble bath. Jillian, who was the Sacramento Zoo's lone tiger, has returned to
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Sumatran tiger cub Jillian turned one on February 10, 2014. Check out this San Francisco Zoo video of her enjoying birthday gifts, which include a frozen ice cake and a bubble bath. Jillian, who was the Sacramento Zoo's lone tiger, has returned to

The Sacramento Zoo's lone tiger has returned to San Francisco after failing to adjust to her change of scenery.

Five-year-old Jillian, a 213-pound Sumatran tiger, moved to Sacramento from the San Francisco Zoo in March 2017. Her problem was a familiar one for many people who have moved to other cities: homesickness.

“While Jillian has been well cared for, she has never quite settled in as we would expect and want,” said Tonja Candelaria, Sacramento Zoo spokeswoman, in a media release. “Just like people, animals including Jillian go through a period of transition after a move. Some settle in very quickly and in rare instances, they may have a more challenging time adjusting to their new surroundings.”

Jillian’s caretakers noticed something was off when she wouldn't regularly shift from one area of her enclosure to another, the release said. Regular movement allows staff to clean the animals' surroundings and provide basic medical checkups. The caretakers fed Jillian her favorite treats and surrounded her with toys, but she still seemed out of place after nearly a year.

As it became clear Jillian couldn't stay in Sacramento, San Francisco Zoo staff began driving east to evaluate Jillian and create care plans before her return. At a UC Davis veterinarian biologist’s recommendation, the tiger is being treated with prescription anti-anxiety medication.

Jillian's grandmother, Baha, died in 2016 after 14 years at the Sacramento Zoo as a result of injuries incurred in a fight with Mohan, a male recently transferred from the Memphis Zoo whom biologists saw as a possible mate.

Her grandfather, Castro, was euthanized in 2014 after 20 months of treatment for lymphoma. The 16-year-old had lived in the Sacramento Zoo since 1999 and was the oldest known breeding Sumatran tiger in the world at the time of his death. Castro and Baha produced five cubs together.

Mohan was moved to the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Wash., 30 days before Jillian's arrival. He will not directly mate while there, but the zoo plans to have him artificially impregnate a female tiger.

Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are believed to live in the wild in Indonesia, and approximately 320 live in captivity around the world. Jillian came to Sacramento as part of the Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan, which the zoo plans to use to bring in another feline at a later date.

Benjy Egel: begel@sacbee.com, 916-321-1052

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