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HOUSTON-Normally, news of the addition of four rare animals to a zoo collection might be fitting for the metro pages, but in the case of two pair of white tigers that recently moved into the Downtown Aquarium here, it’s got a retail angle. While not precisely a zoo, the Downtown Aquarium–which is owned by Landry’s Restaurants Inc., one of the country’s larger casual dining companies–is a six-acre entertainment and dining complex with a 500,000-gallon aquarium, two full-service restaurants, an upscale bar, ballroom, aquatic and geographic exhibits, shopping, and a variety of other amusements.

The tigers, two males and two females ranging in age from one year to two months, are located in a newly designed habitat on the first floor of Downtown Aquarium’s main building. The habitat is enclosed in glass to provide views of the animals and incorporates a designated sleeping area, trees, mock temple ruins and several water features, such as a swimming pool.

Downtown Aquarium was accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) in September, and professionals from the organization assisted Landry’s with the design of the tigers’ new habitat. “Like all AZA accredited facilities, Downtown Aquarium underwent a year-long examination conducted by experts in the field of aquarium and zoological operations,” said Denny Lewis, AZA director ofaccreditation. “The review encompassed every aspect of its operations, including animal care, physical facilities, and veterinary care.”

These four animals aren’t Landry’s first experience with white tigers. The company also maintains some of the animals at its Ocean Journey Aquarium in Denver, which has three tigers. Worldwide, however, tigers are increasingly rare, with the total tiger population having dropped by 95% percent since 1900. About 5,000 to 7,000 wild tigers remain in Asia, though more than 20,000 tigers are maintained in the U.S.

Landry’s owns and operates over 300 properties, including Landry’s Seafood House, Joe’s Crab Shack, the Crab House, Rainforest Cafe, Charley’s Crab, Willie G’s Seafood & Steak House, the Chart House and Saltgrass Steak House. Landry’s owns several developments as well, including Downtown Aquarium in Houston; Kemah Boardwalk, a 40-acre, family-oriented themed entertainment destination, also in Houston; and Ocean Journey in Denver.

The company also has made some major financial moves recently, including the offering of $450 million in notes and the establishment of a $400 million line of credit. The $450 million offering involves unsecured notes guaranteed by certain of Landry’s subsidiaries, due in 2014. The new $400 million in credit will consist of a $250 million revolving credit facility and a $150 million term loan, arranged by Wachovia Capital Markets LLC, Banc of America Securities LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. According to the company, it plans to use the proceeds of the offering, along with the borrowings, to refinance virtually all of its outstanding debt, pay transaction fees, or possibly to fund acquisitions, investments and repurchases of its common stock.

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