As a cub, Angel was an almost transparent read. If you were on lead, and her head ducked down and to the right–look out! She was likely going to be on your head in the next few seconds.
Ceyesa has been known for his ravenous appetite, so when he passes up chicken in favor of giving a nuzzle, you get that special feeling of knowing he really likes you.
Anpawi had a habit of suckling anything she could get her mouth on as a cub. This included paws, fingers, and toes, but her favorite was her brother Wakin. She was suckle on him until he would scream for help.
The wind was whipping, the birds were calling, and the trees bowed as Charger was being born. It was as if the world around us was recognizing the presence of a new predator.
Ape is just an impressive being to be around. It seems impossible that such a big guy could move so quietly…especially right in the moment before he sprays you.
Some of the older volunteers actually call Freedom by her nickname “Hoo-hoo” because she makes an unusual hooting noise when vocalizing.
Canska Wakin Yan
As a cub, Wakin was relatively quiet until his little sister got ahold of him. She would nibble and love on him until he cried out for rescue.
I was feeding Gabriel his favorite food (chicken) when suddenly he stopped eating, looked up and me, and leaned heavily against the fence for a nuzzle. For such a big predator to give up food for my attention was beyond touching indeed.
Helene has grown to love people’s faces and will nuzzle and love on people until they are showered with fur.
When he chuffed, it was a cute sound. But the bite that came afterwards was anything but cute!
I tried to hand her a piece of chicken, but Win didn’t want it. She simply looked at it, then back at me with a chuff before pressing her head against my chest. Score one more point for affection.
Inila likes to rest with his paws against the fence. A little tickle might surprise him at first, but he’ll always put them back for more, chuffing the entire time.
“One time she was beating up on her brothers and I had to reprimand her and she turned around ( she only weighed about 2 pounds )and she took a swing at me with her claws out and cut me superficially across my lip. I was surprised at her lack of fear and learned that a female tiger is a force to be reckoned with, no matter how little she weighs.”
Iyo Taka Tatonka
Iyo will go to great lengths to keep someone he likes from leaving–even going so far as to barricade the door with his body and ‘cry’ a song to make you feel guilty enough for one more hug.
Hota was trying to decide whether to defend his food or get a tickle behind the ear. He decided on both–and ended up learning against the fence and growling while having his ear scratched and one hind leg kicking in the air.
Maaki, though the brother of Wakin and Anpawi, did not spend his early cubhood with us.
Is a Siberian Tiger and gifted with loads of personality. He tends to either be disinterested in the goings on, or demands to be at the front of the line for everything.
Nathaniel is just so cute. If you walk by with a bucket of food, he will look at you with those eyes that just make you want to pinch his cheeks.
Meet Michael, one of the three Siberian ‘Angels’. He’s always one of the first to run up and greet the people in the morning, and is always ready with a warm chuff and affectionate rub.
Nuni has been known to be particularly sensitive to eye contact–to look her in the eyes is a challenge that she will NOT back down from.
After a long period of being separated, Michelob was reunited with Raz in what was one of the biggest feel-good moments at the facility. It was welcomed by both tigers as a return to their cubhood state–with Raz giving him a big pounce.
Is a Bengal Tiger usually has a comment on everything. Her glowing eyes are legendary.
Misunkala could get so excited at times that he would leap up into the upper corners of his enclosure. Seeing a 500 lb. creature momentarily place all four paws in the upper corner of an 8 foot ceiling is a thought provoking experience.
Ohitika was resting on his den when I was trying to get a spider out of his water bucket. After a few minutes of watching my distress, he got down, dumped the bucket with a paw, gave me a snarl, and then got back on his den as if I had troubled him greatly.
At a public education event, Omaste was relaxing on the other side of the arena when a group of people came up. They had just started to talk among themselves when Omaste charged fifteen feet across the arena, roaring and snarling at them. She was not even a year old at the time, and I remember thinking ‘Wow, what a tiger’.
We were feeding Wakuwa when suddenly, one piece of meat fell short of its intended location. She looked between us and the meat with her mouth and eyes wide open in the perfect expression of ‘tiger shock’ that you have ever seen.
He tries to be polite about it, but Quinn would rather greet your feet than your face, a fact which makes it very difficult to shift him from his enclosure if he decides he wants to linger.
Wicasa had been resting while we were filming in front of the enclosure. Just when we were talking about being committed to the cats, he walked up to investigate what we were doing, and say hello. It was a great interruption, immortalized on camera.
When Raj got his first boomer ball (the hard plastic balls tigers play with), he was extremely proud of it. He held it like a child holds a cherished toy.
Winagi loves when we add freshly scented mulch to her enclosure. She rolls around, holding it to her chest and generally making a cub of herself in joy.
Teaching about Tigers
The tiger is often seen as a symbol for Asia. While once spread throughout the entire continent and some of the outlying islands, it is now relegated to small areas of China, Russia, India, and Korea. Of all of the big cats, the tiger is the most adaptable and requires the least specific habitat. They can be found in areas of warm, moist temperatures as well as those with readings of below freezing and heavy snow. All they really require is some cover, a water source, and plentiful prey.
The Amur or Siberian tiger is the largest of all the big cats, but tiger measurements vary among the sub-species. They can weigh anywhere from 200 – 931 pounds (91 – 423 kg) and be 6.5 – 12 feet (1.98 – 3.7 m) in length.
Tigers are easily recognized by the rust-orange base coat and black stripes. However, this too varies among species. Some have a much lighter coat while there are even those who are completely white with chocolate brown to black stripes.
While it may appear that a tiger’s stripes are symmetrical, facial patterns are one of the easiest ways to tell individuals apart. For example, the first time approaching our enclosure where “the angels” live, one might find it very difficult to tell the difference between the three siblings. Upon closer inspection, you would notice that Gabriel has a small u-shaped marking under only his right eye that is unique to him.
Tigers are usually nocturnal (night-time) hunters who feed on everything from frogs and large birds to bears and a variety of native deer species. Extremely adaptable to all types of locations, they are good climbers, comfortable in the water, quick in the snow, and have the ability to leap anywhere from 13 – 33 feet (4 – 10 m).
Like lions, tigers can roar, however, a sound unique to them is called a “chuff.” This is a soft, puffing sound used in greeting other tigers (and the accepted humans, if you are lucky enough to be one of them). Of the nine recognized sub-species, three have already become extinct. The tiger is listed as “endangered” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Habitat loss and hunting for resale of valuable tiger parts are the main threats to their populations.
Chundawat, R.S., Habib, B., Karanth, U., Kawanishi, K., Ahmad Khan, J., Lynam, T., Miquelle, D., Nyhus, P., Sunarto, S., Tilson, R. & Sonam Wang 2011. “Panthera Tigris.” (Tiger). (Online) International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 2013. August 03, 2013. <http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15955/0>.
Dacres, K. 2007. “Panthera tigris” (Online), Animal Diversity Web. Web. August 01, 2013. <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Panthera_tigris/>.
If you would like to see more pictures and read more about our tigers, please see their pages.