Off The Press

April 27, 2010

By Kathleen R. Merrill

A tiger’s birthday is a once-a-year delight

Kathleen R. Merrill Press editor

It was a sunny, gorgeous day April 11 as the 3-year-old tore into his presents with his teeth and claws and gnawed on a rack of ribs to the delight of more than 100 people.

But this wasn’t your average toddler. This was Taj, Cougar Mountain Zoo’s golden Bengal tiger, one of only 102 left in the world, who turned 3 that day. (In fact, the last golden Bengal that was seen in the wild was spotted in 1932!)

If you weren’t there, you truly missed something special. But never fear, you get a second chance this Sunday, May 2, when Almos, the zoo’s royal white Bengal tiger, one of only 400 left in the world, will celebrate turning 3.

Watching these big cats, who weigh more than 400 pounds, pounce and chase things will turn you into a kid again.Almos got into the act April 11, too, because the two are housed in the same enclosure. They ripped and tore and chewed and rubbed and tossed and swatted at their presents made of boxes and tubes, nontoxic paint and paper (no tape or staples).

There was a giant spider, a zebra and plenty of boxes for them to play with. Most had pieces of meat in them.

Although Taj was playing to the crowd at the beginning of the event, he turned his back and was a lost cause once he got to a pack of ribs inside one of the packages.

Almos, who is more timid and stayed away from the action at the beginning, delighted the crowd when he tore down some hanging paper, then ran away from it when it rattled in the wind.

“Just because they’re 400 pounds doesn’t mean they’re not scared of stuff,” zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said with a laugh. “They are only 3.”

There’s something freewheeling and wild (pardon the pun) about a tiger’s birthday party, especially when he’s really into celebrating and acting like a giant kitten. And there’s something even more blissful about sitting in the sun watching a rare and beautiful animal chew on and savor a hunk of ribs. (Yes, Almos found his own at some point. And I’m thinking any self-respecting rib restaurant would be proud to have video to use in commercials.)

People howled with laughter; some even had tears running down their faces. In fact, the people watching was almost as good as the tiger watching. See it for yourself at the zoo Sunday at 1 p.m.

Learn more about the zoo here or follow the zoo on Facebook.

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One Response to “Off The Press”

  1. Lance H on April 29th, 2010 2:00 pm

    Great piece. No BBQ sauce on the ribs though; might appear to be a tad gruesome.

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