You can be a hero for wildlife by visiting the Zoo or Safari Park, or by joining the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which supports our tiger project in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Wild populations of tigers are at an all-time low, but we haven’t lost hope. Understanding tiger behavior and implementing science-based conservation efforts can save these majestic big cats. Get ready for Global Tiger Day on July 29 with these fascinating facts.
There are six subspecies of tiger living today; Amur or Siberian, Bengal or Indian, Indochinese, Malayan, Sumatran, and South China.
3 tiger subspecies (Bali, Javan, and Caspian) are extinct, and the remaining six are all highly endangered due to poaching and habitat encroachment.
The earliest tiger fossils date back about two million years.
In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of wild tigers.
At the current rate, all wild tigers could be extinct in five years.
Tigers are ambush hunters, with only about 1 in 10 hunts resulting in a meal.
Tigers have the largest canines of any big cat species, reaching 2.5 to 3 inches long.
A tiger’s tongue is covered with small, hard, hooked bumps called papillae—making it a perfect scraper to rasp off fur, feathers, and meat from bones.
They can take down prey five times their own weight.
A tiger can cover a distance of up to 33 feet in one leap.
Tigers are solitary cats, unless a female is raising cubs.
A tiger’s night vision is six times better than that of a human.
Female tigers are about 20-percent smaller and lighter than males.
A tiger’s confrontational roar contains energy in the infrasonic range, below human hearing, which helps the sound carry over long distances.
Each tiger has a unique stripe pattern, most include more than 100 stripes. Researchers observing wild tigers can identify individuals by their particular stripes.
A tiger’s stripes are skin deep.
Tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears, which could serve as “false eyes,” making the tiger look watchful to predators. These spots may also help communicate with other tigers, especially between a mom and her cubs.
Tigers can sniff out hidden messages left by other tigers through scent marks.
Tigers have partially webbed toes and their claws can reach 4 inches long.
A tiger’s front feet have an extra claw called a dewclaw, which is used specifically for climbing and gripping.
While most cats avoid it, tigers seek out water to swim and hunt.
Celebrate Global Tiger Day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tiger Trail on July 29, 2015. Festivities include keeper demonstrations, tiger enrichment, conservation displays, and much more.
Ever wonder what the day of a tiger keeper is like? Here at the Safari Park, our day starts early – at 6 a.m.! When we arrive, our first order of business is to bring all of the cats that spent the night outside on exhibit into the eight bedrooms inside the tiger house.
People often think it might be difficult to convince them to come in from their beautiful and spacious exhibits, but the truth is, they usually come running. That’s because they know that once they’re inside, it’s time for breakfast! All of the cats get between 4.5 to 6 lbs. of ground meat daily, and we typically like to divide their diet up into two to three feedings throughout the day. This allows us more opportunity to work with the cats, and it also helps to make their day a bit more interesting. We’ll often use their breakfast to work on some of their trained behaviors, or as a reward for simple desensitization, such as for blood draws, temperatures, or even just for sitting comfortably inside their transport crate. During that first meal of the day, we also take the opportunity to visually inspect them, and make sure all is well.
Once everyone is satiated, we head out to inspect the exhibits. First, we of course make sure they’re clean and safe for the cats, and then it’s time to add enrichment! Enrichment refers to anything we can incorporate into the tigers’ day to make their lives more fun, interesting, or challenging. On exhibit, that can involve anything from scattering some treats to encourage foraging behavior, to simply spraying various scents on logs, rocks, or substrates. Sometimes we’ll even use products from other animals, such as ocelot bedding, rhino dung, or hair that’s been shed by our camels. This way, their exhibits always offer them something new to explore.
When the exhibits are ready, it’s time to send some of the cats outside. As another way to keep things interesting, the cats are all rotated daily, between the three exhibits and the eight bedrooms inside. That way, no one is in the same place for two days in a row! The cats that stay inside for the day also have their bedrooms cleaned and well-stocked with enrichment, ranging from heavy-duty tiger toys, to scented paper bags or cardboard boxes. Coming up with novel ways to present these items is always very enriching for us as keepers too! As a keeper, it’s a highlight to watch Delta rolling happily on her rosemary bedding, or one of the boys tackling their favorite “weebil” toy.
Once the rest of our work is done, it’s time for record keeping. Not only do our tigers have twelve different keepers taking care of them, but veterinarians, nutritionists, researchers, and reproductive physiologists also keep tabs on the cats. For that reason, keeping detailed notes is a very important part of our job. We have record books, training and enrichment logs, and daily reports that help everyone track and monitor necessary information. Throughout the day, the keepers also do various training demonstrations with the tigers on exhibit. This allows our guests to view some of the cats’ husbandry behaviors and have a better understanding of how we interact with them, but it also provides our tigers with the best possible care.
If you’re interested in tiger training, enrichment, or even general husbandry, be sure to come and visit us on Wednesday, July 29th for Global Tiger Day. There will be keeper talks, training demonstrations, and enrichment releases for everyone to enjoy… especially the cats! We hope to see you there.
Lori Hieber is senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Giving thanks is certainly in season, but our gratitude for the support of our members, donors, sponsors, and partners extends far beyond the holiday. Plus, we thank our dedicated volunteers for their efforts in connecting our visitors to wildlife and conservation. So while we continue to give thanks to all the people and organizations that contribute to our goal of saving species from extinction, there are a few special shout-outs we would like to emphasize this Thanksgiving.
They are one of the largest flying birds and one of our greatest continuing success stories. We’ve come a long way since 1985, when California condors were 22 birds away from extinction. Today, more than 400 California condors are alive, with over half flying free in California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico. This year we’re especially grateful for our international partners in Baja California, Mexico and at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City. With a renewed cross-border commitment to the California Condor Recovery Program, our mounting achievements will result in even more condors spreading their wings and flying free in the wild.
Don’t let their tough shells fool you! According to Conservation International, 40 percent of turtle species across the globe are at immediate risk of extinction. In 2013, we gave California’s only native freshwater turtle species, the southwestern pond turtle, a “headstart” toward recovery with the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Diego Association of Governments. Five more turtles were released into the Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve this summer, so a special thanks goes to our local conservation partners for the swimming success and enduring research.
We are thankful to receive the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for the African bush elephant program, along with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. We’ve also had success with our satellite herd of this species at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. The birth of our most recent calf, Nandi, contributed to the population of these gentle giants, and we are pleased to work with animal care staff in Arizona to further this mission.
Introducing people to wildlife is crucial for the conservation of all species. In addition to four hospitals across the United States, this year we were able to bring the San Diego Zoo Kids channel to the patients and families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Furthermore, the educational channel was implemented into Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, where children can enjoy hours of animal stories from the comfort of their own rooms.
The opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail was the culmination of years of planning, design, fund-raising, and construction, all made possible through the contributions of our community and the amazing generosity of the Tull Family. This adventure is proof that when we come together, we can accomplish great things for endangered species like the Sumatran tiger.
Highlighting every species and conservation success we’ve shared this year is impossible. However, on behalf of everybody at San Diego Zoo Global, our organization would like to thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and the overall community for the ongoing support and dedication. Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is our ultimate goal, but we can’t do it without you.
Join the conversation: What are you thankful for this year?
Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 9 Culturally Haunting Animals.
For our guests at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as our Tiger Cam viewers, it’s not uncommon to see the tigers roaming the perimeter of their yards, or even strolling back and forth across a smaller area. This activity can be attributed to a number of factors, many of which are a clear reflection of life for their wild cousins. In the wild, tigers patrol the perimeter of their territory on a regular basis and can sometimes walk more than 10 miles in one night while hunting. Consequently, we consider it a natural, species-appropriate exercise when they cruise their territorial boundaries, whether it’s to check out the smells left behind by another cat the day before, to remark the borders with their own signature scent, or to just make sure that everything is well within their domain!
The perimeter fencing around Tiger Trail keeps the local mule deer from ever getting into close proximity with the tiger yards. At the former tiger habitat, we’d frequently have deer around the perimeter of the exhibit and on the trail by the catch pen, and all the cats would do was sit and stare…for hours! Our tigers have it pretty good within their yards; they have all their needs met and basically get everything served to them on a platter, so they have no real motivation to “expand their territory.” And while tigers are capable of climbing, they’re pretty inefficient at it, especially once they’re full grown.
Typically, when we see the cats walking back and forth across a smaller area, it’s because something has them particularly inspired. Often, this can be the anticipation of an upcoming training session, especially if one of their keepers is in close proximity. Sometimes, however, their excitement has more to do with the other tigers. For example, when one of our females is in estrus, we’ll often see an increase in activity from them, as well as our adult male, Teddy. Also, as the cats are still acclimating to all of their new human guests, we’ll sometimes see them become a bit more enthusiastic when they catch sight of a particular passer-by (usually one of the smaller ones!). Our guests often, albeit unknowingly, provide a great source of environmental enrichment for the tigers.
If helping to enrich the tigers sounds like fun, be sure to visit us on Tuesday, July 29, when we’ll be celebrating Global Tiger Day! We’ll have keeper talks, training demonstrations, and enrichment-building workshops, where you can create real tiger toys and then see them put to use! It will be a day not to be missed for all of our tiger fans. Be sure to come out and show your stripes!
Lori Gallo is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Tigers Adjust to New Home.
There is really no better way to spend a summer evening than hassle-free camping under shooting stars with a warm breeze and a menagerie of animal calls echoing through the valley. The Roar & Snore Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park allows you to do just that, which my friend Teresa and I did in early July. There’s a choice of tent accommodation from Classic (what we chose) to Premium (includes a Queen-sized bed, rug, and lamps—more like “glamping” than camping). Roar & Snore Safaris feature Adults Only, Family Nights, and All Ages to choose from. Check in time is 4:15 p.m. and, while strapping young men transfer your luggage from your car to a van and deposit it at your tent, campers enjoy the first of several animal presentations in a shady area in front of the Safari Park entrance. We got to meet a surprisingly fast African leopard tortoise and a hyper-alert pygmy falcon while campers checked in.
We were divided into four groups, each sporting a nifty, glow-in-the-dark color-coded wristband, and we headed to camp. We settled into our digs and savored the view from Kilima Point, overlooking the African Plains habitat replete with giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, springbok, and more. After supper, as the shadows stretched long, our guide took us through the new Tiger Trail, and we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the tigers’ bedroom area and the keepers’ workspace. The structure is so well made and expertly ventilated, that if there was a wildfire, cats and keepers could hunker down in the building and stay safe.
On our way back to camp, we got another animal presentation featuring a darling little sugar glider (“the smallest marsupial”), a hypnotic sand python named Woma, whose flattish head indicates it is a shoveler of sand and soil, and a shy three-banded armadillo, which soon felt comfortable enough to unfurl for us. As we headed to see elephants, there was splashing and excitement in the air…with dusk descending, several of the elephants decided it was the perfect time to take a dip! In a tangle of trunks and trumpeting, the young pachyderms frolicked in the pool, as kids are wont to do. As one pushed another under water, its trunk opening would crack the surface like a periscope. Soon it would bob up and return the dunking. The giant matriarchs stood nearby, one tossing dirt on her back, another scratching against a log and bellowing every so often. It was a pool party I was happy to witness!
Returning to camp, where the fire was crackling, we were given the ingredients to make roasted marshmallow s’mores and had some time to relax and count stars before the next optional add-on: a walking tour with night vision goggles! Eight of us intrepid campers chose to participate, and we were given our super-power binoculars. With a push of a button, the eyepieces glowed night-vision green. I squealed with delight.
We headed out past Lion Camp to the Africa Tram road. It was magical—nighttime chirps and murmurs punctuated by the alto roar of Izu, the male lion. The air was cool and fragrant…and it was DARK. Outlines of palm trees and giraffes were all that were visible with the naked eye, but through the goggles, details and texture prevailed. Animal eyes reflected glowing green back at us. African crowned cranes stood stalk still, clearly visible through the goggles.
I was breathless with this whole new nocturnal world revealed to me. With the naked eye, about all you could see in the cheetah exhibit was an ear gliding by, but with the goggles, you could see her sleekness and spots clear as day. I wonder what she thought about this little group of upright apes peering at her through green orbs as she gracefully glided before us, comfortable in her own skin and the night. I will never, ever forget seeing the Safari Park with truly fresh eyes.
Karyl Carmignani is a staff writer for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Still Ga Ga for Gao Gao.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been three weeks since the grand opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park! In that time, we’ve been more than impressed with how well the cats have acclimated to their new daily routines, as well as to the influx of all of their human guests! Many of the tigers seem to really enjoy making themselves as visible as possible at the glass viewing areas and appear to have a great time watching their spectators (especially the kids). The cats have quickly overcome any of the stage fright they may have first felt during their daily training demonstrations and are now quite happy to show off their skills at the interpretive wall for all those who are willing to watch!
As the cats have become more comfortable, we’ve also started to rotate them more throughout the different exhibits, making sure each of the cats gets to check out the features of each yard at least a couple of times per week. This not only gives them a chance to take advantage of all the great features in each yard but also helps to keep them active and enriched, as they get to check out all of the smells left behind by the cat before them!
When the cats aren’t on exhibit, they are enjoying the cool and comfortable accommodations of their new house. Enrichment toys, bedding, and scents furnish each of the eight rooms and are changed daily to delight their curious natures. The cats are brought into their bedrooms every morning, where we feed them their breakfast and then work on trained behaviors to challenge their minds and encourage problem solving. The tiger house also features a number of features to better allow for routine care, such as desensitization of things like voluntary blood draws, injections, ultrasounds, and crating.
With all of the wonderful elements for the tigers in both the exhibits and the house, we’re certainly able to provide these cats with fun-filled and exciting days! Be sure to watch them daily on Tiger Cam.
Lori Gallo is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Meet the Tigers on Tiger Cam.
Teddy, our new breeding male, came to us last year from the Ft. Wayne Children’s Zoo (see post Meet Ted, Our New Tiger) and just celebrated his 10th birthday last month. So far he’s been spending most of his time in what will eventually be the maternity yard, as we’ve found that this yard seems to be his preference. The ample glass viewing allows him to keep a watchful eye on the tigers in the adjacent exhibit, and, of course on all of his two-legged visitors as well!
Delta, our matriarch, is the undisputed queen of the new castle! We’ll be celebrating her Sweet 16 later on this month, on May 26, 2014. She’s been the mother to 4 litters, or 10 cubs, 4 of which are still here at the Safari Park. A true tigress, she often has a fiery personality but has always been an exceptional mother. She’s developed a strong affection for Teddy, and therefore seems to prefer the yard adjacent to his, which comes complete with a deep pool for underwater viewing. Most often, though, we find Delta lying in the front of the exhibit, where she can not only keep an eye on Teddy but be in close view for all of her human admirers as well.
When Delta is not in the underwater viewing exhibit, you’ll often find her two daughters, Joanne and Majel. The girls will be turning four years old in October, and we’re certainly beginning to see the signs of maturity setting in! Both have also recently taken a new interest in Teddy and enjoy being able to say “hello” from across the path. The girls are easy to tell apart, as Joanne is a bit smaller and has many more spots, or freckles, between her stripes. The two have very different personalities as well; Joanne tends to be more confident and outgoing, while Majel is often more affectionate and sensitive.
The girls’ younger brothers, Thomas and Conrad, just turned three years old in March. Like all brothers, you can often spot the two wrestling or chasing after one another in the waterfall exhibit. While Conrad has always been a bit more of a water-lover than his brother, neither has gotten quite brave enough yet to jump into their new pool. We’re confident that with the warmer months approaching, they’ll soon be taking the plunge!
It’s been so much fun to watch the cats explore their new exhibits, and we’re thrilled that now the rest of you can watch with us on our new Tiger Cam! Tiger Trail opens to Safari Park guests on Saturday, May 24, 2014. Come say hi to our wonderful tigers!
Lori Gallo is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Take a Behind-the-Scenes Safari featuring our tigers!