Argentine zoo transfers two rare Bengal tigers to the US

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This handout picture from the Ecoparque BA, or Eco-park of Buenos Aires, shows keepers moving one of two white Bengal tigers in fitted cages to begin a journey to a far more spacious sanctuary in the US state of Colorado

Two rare white Bengal tigers from Argentina are due to arrive Saturday at a spacious sanctuary in the US state of Colorado in hopes of a "better quality of life," their space-challenged Eco-park in Buenos Aires said.

Rhiano, a 14-year-old born in the Argentine capital's old zoo -- later transformed into today's Eco-park -- and Cleo, a 12-year-old originally from a Canadian zoo, were headed to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, which is known for its work rescuing and caring for large predators.

"It's a long trip, between the 11-hour flight to Dallas and then a nine-hour drive to the sanctuary in Colorado," said the Buenos Aires environmental secretary, Eduardo Machiavelli, quoted in a press release from the Eco-park.

Staff there had trained the tigers to become accustomed to the transfer cages so they could make the long trip with the least possible stress, Macchiavelli said.

Since the old Buenos Aires zoo was closed a few years ago and transformed into the city's Eco-park, more than 890 animals have been transferred to more modern or spacious facilities elsewhere.

Each transfer, the park said, is made with the animal's "quality of life" in mind.

While the old zoo covered only 45 acres (18 hectares), the Colorado sanctuary is spread over nearly 1,800 acres.

It was chosen in part, the Buenos Aires release said, because of the good experience enjoyed by brown and spectacled bears transferred there earlier.

Bengal tigers are considered an endangered species. Their average life expectancy is 20 years.

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