Sure, these tigers are hand reared from birth. Sure, they are used to people, need people to survive and thrive on affection. But, knowing that the fine beast was not drugged or tranquilized in any way, and faced with the business end of a tiger not three feet from my face, I devolved into a state of blithering incompetence. What the hell was I thinking!
How can a tiger be handled safely without restraint or medications? “We feed them up to five kilograms of meat, twice a day. If they aren’t hungry, and don’t feel threatened or teased, they aren’t going to be interested,” one keeper told us. . “Really, at this time of day, and in this heat, they’d prefer just rather sleep.”
Right: These tigers were between six and nine months old. They are kept together with their litter mates as long as possible. The girl on my right snuggled right in looking for a cuddle.
But the Kingdom works with a tiger’s natural biorhythms, too. In the wild, tigers hunt at dawn, dusk and at night. Seldom do they hunt during the day unless they are very hungry. They also sleep about 18 hours a day. Given that they are naturally somnolent in the heat of the day, used to being handled, and well fed, there is simply no need for them to be aggressive.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t play with each other, though. The younger ones (two and a half months old) sound quite fierce when they get tussling.
Photos: R. Marion
Coming up next: Fish Pedicures and a glass of Guinness.