Two stunning Bengal tigers have found themselves a new home at a Horncastle wildlife park.
The eight-year-old siblings, named Assam and Bengal, had been living at Heythrop Zoological Gardens, a private zoo in the Cotswolds, when they found themselves in need of a new home back in October last year.
Luckily for them, Wolds Wildife Park, run by Andrew Riddell and Tracey Walters in Horncastle, have taken in animals from other zoos and circus environments before, so they set about creating a suitable environment for the tigers.
Tracey said they took advice from their zoo advisor Douglas Richardson when creating a safe and enriching home for the tigers:
“There were endless things we needed to do to make the place suitable for them,” she said, “The fencing needs to be high and electrified, with a safe caged environment to keep visitors safe, and tigers’ husbandary needs needed to be taken into consideration too.”
As tigers enjoy water, their enclosure had to include fresh water and a pond to simulate their natural habitats, as well as suitable drainage for the pond and ventilation and a number of enrichment features in their outdoor enclosure.
The tigers arrived on Monday, and will now be given a couple of weeks to get used to their new enclosure before they are unveiled to the public.
Tracey said: “They’ll stay in their indoor enclosure for a couple of days when they arrive to make sure they get used to their new surroundings and all the noises around here so they feel safe, then we’ll let them out into their outdoor enclosure to have a look around for a few hours each day.
“eventually, we’ll be able to let them out all day and we’ll only need to bring them in when we need to clean them out or mend anything.”
As tigers like ebing able to sit up high to view their surroundings from a high vantage point, just like domestic cats, their outdoor enclosure has a large viewing platform for the tigers to lie on to survey their new kingdoms.
They will also have lots of logs and rocks to create hiding places for them to sit in and rest to mimic their natural environments in the wild.
Once the tigers have settled in, visitors should be able to see them in their new home at Wolds Wildlife Park from this weekend onwards (September 10 and 11).
The tigers are obviously carnivores, so they will be able to enjoy a diet of fresh beef on the bone, which will also be enrichment for them as it will stimulate their eating of fresh prey in the wild as well as liver and pigs heads.
To help them with their enrichment, the team has also installed a feeding pole which will have food attached to it which will make the tigers work for their food like they would have in the wild.
Eventually, Tracey and Andrew hope to be able to create an outdoor viewing aea so that visitors will be able to see the tigers in their new habitat more easily, hopefully by early next year.
In the run up to Christmas, there are also plans in place for visitors to be able to take part in experiences with the tigers where they will be able to watch them being fed and see how they are cared for once they’ve had time to settle in.
Bengal tigers, also called Indian tigers, are native to India and grow to be up to 6ft in length.
Bengal tigers are the most common species of tiger and, according to National Geographic, account for around half of the world’s tiger population.
But the species are still endangered, as with most species of tiger, due to the loss of habitat and the lack of prey.
Unlike lions which live together in prides, tigers are a more solitary species and live alone, scent-marking their territories to keep their rivals away.
They are nocturnal hunters that travel many miles to find buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals.
Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes). They lie in wait and creep close enough to attack their victims with a quick spring and a fatal pounce. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 pounds in one night, though they usually eat less.
Andrew and TRacey work was featured in an ITV documentary called ‘Britain’s Tiger Kings – on the Trail with Ross Kemp’ earlier this year, which went behind the scenes with some of the country’s keepers of wild animals.
What started with a single zebra soon developed into a private collection and now Andrew and Tracy have more than 200 animals in their care.
Following an abundance of public encouragement and a lot of hard work, they acquired a zoo licence and the park was rapidly establishing itself as one of Lincolnshire’s premier tourist attractions, even winning a national Great Day Out award.
Wolds Wildlife Park, owned and run by Andrew Riddell and Tracey Walters, like many public attractions has endured a tough year due to being closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The winter season in particular was tough as they didn’t have any customers through the gates during lockdown, and therefore little income with still dozens of animals to feed and care for.
So the couple were delighted to have been awarded a Great Day Out Award, awarded by James Murphy, the founder of the Local Business Awards which aims to shine the light on local businesses which serve their communities well.
Tracey said: “We officially opened with a zoo licence in 2020, and it has been a very tough time for us in our first year with Covid.
“But with all the wonderful support from the public and the local authority, we can put Horncastle back on the map as a great place to visit.”
The Local Business Awards celebrate the best local businesses in the UK, educating communities about the importance of supporting local companies and inspiring a local business revolution to build sustainable local economies.
To find out more about Wolds Wildlife Park, visit their website at www.woldswildlife.co.uk