The Tallahassee Museum’s newest guest animal, known for its prowess in the jungle, is a 2-year-old, 350-pound Bengal tiger that made its debut in November and is expected to stay through mid-March.
Shelbee Caldwell, a visitor at the museum and Tallahassee resident, described the exhibit as an educational experience for her and her family. This guest animal exhibit provides a new experience for many Tallahassee and Leon County residents.
Steve Carbol, director of education at the museum, said residents would have to travel as far as Jacksonville, Fla., to see similar exhibits.
The museum acquired this big jungle cat from Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation in Gainesville, Fla. The tiger was rescued from a circus by the foundation. The circus withheld food from the tiger to use him as a prop for photo ops with circus-goers.
According to Mike Jones, head curator of the animal department at the Tallahassee Museum, the tiger was rescued from a circus by the foundation. The circus withheld food from the tiger to use him as a prop for photo ops with circus-goers.
“It’s an extra risk for him because he has a very specialized diet that consists of large prey,” Jones said. “Big cats such as the Bengal tiger and the Florida panther can’t live on small prey because they would not replace the calories that they used to catch their food.”
While at the museum, the tiger eats 10 pounds of raw chicken leg quarters, a commercial ground meat mixture for big cats, daily and occasionally raw fish or ribs as a treat. The animal husbandry team is responsible for feeding and keeping the tiger active. They use tactics such as hiding its food during feeding time so that it can find food on its own.
The Bengal tiger is housed in a 50-by-80-foot enclosure that is fenced on top and on three of its sides. The enclosure has a glass window for guests to observe the tiger in a natural setting. It also has a pool with jets, large tree branches and logs and balls of various sizes for the tigers use.
“The objects in the enclosure keep him engaged,” Carbol said. “Big cats pace sometimes as a way to keep their minds busy. He doesn’t pace because he is almost always engaged and stimulated.”
Because of his engaging nature, Carbol said it is difficult not to treat him as a pet. The Bengal tiger is considered the apex of predators as well as an endangered species. Carbol emphasizes to museum guests that big cats such as tigers should not be considered pets.
In compliance with this, the guest tiger has not been given a name. Staff members use a call name for him that only they know, and Carbol could not disclose the name.
For more information on the Guest Animal Program and the Bengal Tiger Exhibit at the Tallahassee Museum, visit http://tallahasseemuseum.org/guestanimal.