This really has no place on my website. But there are things that happen in your life that are magical - this was one of those.

Wikipedia says the following about the Siberian Tiger:

The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur, Manchurian, Altaic, Korean, North China or Ussuri tiger is a subspecies of tiger which once ranged throughout Western, Central Asia and eastern Russia, though it is now completely confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, where it is now protected. It is the biggest of the eight recent tiger subspecies and the largest living felid, at 300 kg (660 lb). There are only 350 - 450 Siberian tigers left in the wild and they are on the critically endangered list. Breedeing programs in captivity are succesful, in fact the Siberian tiger  is bred under the auspices of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), in a project based on 83 tigers captured in the wild. According to most experts, this population is large enough to stay stable and genetically healthy. Today, approximately 160 Siberian tigers participate in the SSP, which makes it the most extensively bred tiger subspecies within the program. While Siberian Tigers are not difficult to breed in the wild, the possibility of survival for animals bred in captivity released into the wild is small. They are endangered by both hunting and environment destruction. Until both these aspects can be controlled, the outlook for these magnificent animals in the wild looks very sad.

It was thus a huge priviledge, to be able to spend a few hours with one of these maginificent cats and his human friend. Apollo, at 3 years of age and weighing in at around 280 kg, is not yet fully mature. But believe me, he is HUGE by any definition.

Apollo was reared by hand and is extremely friendly towards humans - perhaps I should rephrase this - he is extremely good natured and very tollerant of humans and is an amazing embassador for these animals. To this day he loves his bottle of milk - you can see the bliss in his face when he finally gets it at the end of the walk. Yes, this huge animal, still gets his baby bottle :-). He of course also gets meat and I was speechless to learn that not only was I allowed to feed him from my hand, but to feel the delicate way in which he takes the meat from you. In fact I think he "sucks" it up. You can't even feel a rasping of the tongue he is that careful - amazing. 

There is something special when we can touch and interact with animals in general, but having that priviledge with this magnificent cat was simply overwhelming. Would I prefer to see him being able to roam freely without a chain around his neck? Well of course that goes without saying. But he was bred in captivity and sadly, due to human mismanagment of his environment the only home he will ever know is in enclosures and he will stay there until his death. Hopefully through tigers like him these magnificent animals can be kept alive until we one day will find a safe place in the wild they can call home.

With no further adoo ......... Meet Apollo and John


There are always lessons to be learned in life. The most dangerous part of the tiger was actually the back end. Apollo's delight on these walks is that he can mark his territory. He does so frequently and with gusto. Note the large dark patch just to the left of his tail on the wooden fence ...





His reward at the end of the walk - a baby bottle of milk ...

My turn to walk the tiger ... note the rediculous little dog leash :-)

What an incentive to practise LLW (Loose Leash Walking - which many dog owners find very challenging)

The boys are having a cuddle ...



Feeding Apollo raw meat out of my hand. Note the incisors - the tigers have all their teeth and claws in place. Despite seeing the teeth on this picture you can not feel a thing when he takes the meat chunks.


He is not even that fussy who delivers the bottle...


.... But "dad" is definitely best 

Thank you Apollo and John - this experience was amazing.

Read more about the program on John's webpage.

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