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Tigers at Home in the Bronx Zoo

Tiger Mountain trainers talk to Scholastic kid reporters about the importance of zoos in keeping tigers alive.

Zeff
Zeff, a 290-pound female Siberian tiger, looks out from Tiger Mountain, a new three-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo in New York, on Wednesday, May 14, 2003. The habitat re-creates a corner of the Amur valley on the border between China and Russia. (Photo: Kathy Willens/AP Wide World)
I went to the Bronx Zoo in New York City this summer to learn about endangered animals and what kids can do to help them. Siberian tigers are one of the many endangered species in the world.

Tigers are in danger because people hunt them for their fur. Also, their habitat is being cut down to make way for roads, farms, and homes. The tigers suffer because without trees and other parts of their habitat, they can't hunt for food.

Another problem is that tigers are being trapped and kept as pets. They are not eligible for zoos or breeding because they are not part of the global species survival plan. Zoologists keep track of family traits and backgrounds of every animal in the species survival system. Introducing an unknown animal could cause disease and lead to extinction.

"They may be cute and cuddly when you get them as a little cub, but when they grow up, they're extremely dangerous and people think that they're like a domestic cat," said Linda Corcoran of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The WCS, which is headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, works on getting laws passed to make it illegal to own big cats as pets.

"We helped pass a federal bill to prevent the interstate trade and importation of a wide range of great cats as pets," said Sara S. Marinello, assistant director of government affairs for WCS. "Right now, we're getting involved in the same sort of thing with primates (monkeys) as pets."
Scholastic reporters at the tiger exhibit
Scholastic reporters Lindsay and Brandon Gustafeste and Quinn Jacobson explore an exhibit on poachers at the Tiger Mountain exhibit at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. (Photo: Ezra Billinkoff)
At the tiger exhibit, called Tiger Mountain, tigers have three acres of space. The exhibit re-creates the Amur Valley on the border of Russia and China. We were able to see the tigers up-close through large glass windows that open onto the exhibit. Trainers opened hatches in the wall to feed the animals a mix of horsemeat on a stick. Several times a day, they use the horsemeat sticks to entice the animals into action.

"We don't force the animals to do anything they don't want to do," the trainer explained to us when the tigers showed no interest in the meat. It was a really hot day and the mother/daughter tiger team in the exhibit preferred to sit in the shade.

The zoo has six tigers: four females and two males. They are separated at night. Only a few tigers are put into the viewing portion of the exhibit at a time.

"In each exhibit we can house a mother/daughter pair—two females—but if a male came out, we would only house them singly, because they are solitary animals," the trainer explained.

Tiger Mountain has been open since 2003. It recently won an award for its realistic living space. There's even a tiger pool. Unlike house cats, tigers love water. You can watch the tigers swim and play in the pool.

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