Nico (vilakins) wrote,
Nico
vilakins

Birthday surprise number 2

Greg lied--he didn't have a client visit in Whangarei at all (though he does have a client there, who is also a major supporter of the Zion Wildlife Gardens). We went straight to Zion where Greg had booked us a private guided tour, including tiger cubs! And that included a surprise that not even he knew about!

Here are some pictures Greg took with our old digital camera which has such a crap zoom we don't use it. Some are therefore very cropped. I took about 50 photos on my other camera, but the film has yet to be developed. I'll put them up in a gallery when I've got them back. Some of them should be excellent; that camera's got a good zoom.

However, Greg got the cub-feeding on the digital. Yes! I got to bottle-feed a white tiger cub!!!


wild
The wild pride. This was the start of Craig Bush's conservation program. He bought these lions from the heir of a circus-owner. They're all Barbary lions, extinct in the wild. I think that's the patriarch, Samson, on the left.

girls
Narnia and Savannah, hand-reared sisters, daughters of Samson.

aslan
Aslan, their brother. You can see the Barbary mane here: dark on the ends and extending right under the body and along the belly.

gandor
Gandor and Shakira. Gandor is a white lion Craig got from South Africa as part of an exchange breeding program. Shakira is his friend, a little girl brought with him to keep him company and stop him being homesick. They're getting big and I can see the start of Gandor's mane growing in.

iandk
Indra and Kahli. These are the orange Bengal tiger cubs, daughters of Shikana. They were very friendly and we could pet them through the wire. They were in what's usually the birthing house because one had a cut paw and it was safer because of infection. These little girls had beautiful amber eyes and were quite chatty, making soft growls and demanding attention and scritches.

poorly
An orange cub (I'm not sure which was which) licks her poorly paw. Don't worry, it wasn't too bad; they were leaping all over each other and playing.

tygo
Just for redstarrobot, a close-up of Tygo's nose and paw. He's a royal white tiger; there are only 90 left in the world.

rewa
Rewa, mother of the white tiger cubs we played with and fed. She rejected them at birth so they're completely hand-reared. She has the solid white gene (white tigers without any stripes at all) and also the golden tabby one (marmalade-striped tigers) so they're looking forward to more cubs from her.

art
Abu and Jahdu, the other two royal whites. This is Greg getting artistic with a shot between two poles.

feed1
Me feeding the female cub, Aotea. I was stroking her soft head the whole time which is why my hand's caught in that odd position.

text
The cubs were soft and cuddly, but they felt more woolly than furry; rather like Merino lambs. Their stripes had a different texture so there was a faint ridged effect too. They were adorable.

text
She loved that bottle and kept her paw on my hand, kneading gently. Even when all the milk mixture was gone, she kept sucking in hope. I was told to take the bottle away before she bit the teat off. :-)

text
All the royal whites had light eyes shading to pale blue round their pupils. Just beautiful. Neither of these cubs are named as they're going to South Africa in a couple of weeks as part of a genetic exchange program. Craig gets three other cubs in exchange. The place they're going is amazing: they get loads of attention and cuddles and all the different animal species are in together when they're small, and they all get on well even though they might be prey and hunter in the wild.

play
When they were fed, we got to play with both cubs for about a half-hour in their big grassy enclosure. This is the boy, Tane, playing with a stuffed tiger cub from the gift shop. They've had it since they were little and it's still got its eyes and ears. We also picked them up and cuddled them--they weigh about 10kg--but they were in play mode and wriggled and grunted till we let them go so they could race around and pounce on each other--and us!

I have loads more pictures but they're on film which is being developed. When I've got them back, I'll put them into a gallery and post a link to it.

Of interest only to trixieleitz or others who have seen The Lion Man on TV

We also saw Shrek and John the builders, who were, well, building. Karen has indeed left after a break-up and the lovely Diana, our guide, said they all hoped for a reconciliation but it was very unlikely. Savannah, the naughty female, was hand-raised by Karen and even slept on her hair, and she never got over finding out she wasn't going to be a house-lion all her life, so that's why she behaves badly, esp with Karen when she was there. The other hand-reared ones never behaved like that though. We passed Craig himself on the road as we left.

Tags: birthdays, cats, photos, zion wildlife gardens
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