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Big cats star at Emperor Valley Zoo

By Miranda La Rose Sunday, March 23 2014

click on pic to zoom in
One of the Bengal tigers which was acquired by the Emperor Valley Zoo last week....
One of the Bengal tigers which was acquired by the Emperor Valley Zoo last week....

Visitors to the Emperor Valley Zoo turned out in their numbers yesterday to see the latest attraction — three Bengal tigers and two African lionesses — which the zoo acquired just last week.

The animals comprise a couple - a male and female rare White Bengal Tigers, one orange coloured tiger, one female white lioness and another female normal coloured lioness.

The tigers are between the ages of 15 to 21 months old and weight between 100 to 150 kilos, while the lionesses are five and eight months old and weigh about 50 kilos each. The tigers were acquired at a cost of US$25,000 each.

Zoologist Mike Bester, owner of Bester Birds and Animals Zoo Park of Pretoria, South Africa, and who travelled with the animals over a three- day period to get them to Trinidad, told Sunday Newsday:

“I am satisfied with the preparations for the animals here. I am happy that people are visiting to see the animals and want to know more about them.”

“I would never have brought them if I didn’t think it was possible. We did a lot of preparation and I see no reason why they should not breed. They are of a good genetic stock. Like most cats they are fairly easy to breed. The possibility of breeding these highly rare endangered animals in Trinidad will be great.”

If this becomes possible, Bester said exchanges could be made with other zoos in South or Central America.

The current accommodation for the tigers was adequate, he said, and their permanent location, which they are due to occupy in another two months time, he described as “a large magnificent space, which will have three water falls and sprinklers where they can cool on a hot day, and undulating land. It is like paradise.”

Bester said he met President of the TT Zoological Society Gupte Lutchmedial some four years ago and since then, they have been having discussions on the acquisition of and preparations for the animals which were bred in captivity. The tigers are fourth and fifth generation tigers brought from the Indian sub-continent.

The acquisition of two White Bengal tigers is a bonus for the zoo Lutchmedial said. He told Sunday Newsday the Zoo had paid for two orange Bengal Tigers as they could not afford two White tigers. However, Bester provided a male White tiger at no additional cost.

“We did not charge any extra for the animal. The animals are low cost in comparison to the costs and logistics of travel and crates,” said Bester.

The White tigers, he said, are of the same species, but have a “rare colour mutation.” The white cats, he said can produce offsprings that are orange in colour.

The same, he said, can happen with the lions.

In some South African folklore, he said, “If someone sees a white lion in the wild, it is sign of good luck. They used to call them ghost lions in the language of those areas.”

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