I have always wanted to visit Tiger World, so when I decided to write a blog about this Rowan County attraction, it gave me the perfect excuse to go. Plus, my son and his family had visited a few weeks before and they enjoyed their visit so much!
Tiger World is a nonprofit animal conservation and educational center dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation, and preservation of exotic animals. Through educational tours, 50,000 visitors a year receive a one-of-a-kind experience while learning about threatened and endangered species.
Conservation through Education
The entrance leads you to the gift shop filled with many great souvenirs for purchase to remember your visit. I was greeted by a young lady named, Katie Hughes, who called down for Aubrey Taylor, the Animal Behavior and Husbandry Manager. Aubrey greeted me with high energy ready to take me on a tour from one end of the grounds to the other.
Our tour started with Wayne the Liger, which ended up being my favorite stop of the day. You may be asking yourself, what’s a Liger? A Liger is half Lion and half Tiger. Wayne is a gorgeous creature with the coloring of a Lion and stripes of a Tiger. Unfortunately, Wayne’s beauty brings some sadness. The Tiger World staff explained it’s not good to cross breed these magnificent animals because it can cause birth defects. Since these two breeds do not live together in the wild, the breeding was done in captivity before Wayne came to Tiger World for a better life. Due to this cross breeding, Wayne was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Gigantism. This disorder can cause animals to lack the gene that limits their growth. For reference, a normal size animal like Wayne could weigh up to 500 pounds though Wayne currently weighs 900 pounds. He will continue to grow for the rest of his life. Tiger World does not condone the cross breeding of these animals and only strives now to give them the best life possible.
Living with Wayne is a Ti-Liger by the name of Radar. A Ti-Liger is the second generation of a Liger. Radar’s father was a Tiger and his mother was a Liger. Most male hybrids are born sterile, but a few females are born fertile. Lucky for Radar, he does not suffer from Gigantism. Radar’s beautiful face is more like a Tiger and he is also a rather large creature himself.
While walking the grounds with Aubrey, I asked her why there was a need for such a place like Tiger World. Aubrey explained, “These animals need a place to go. A large majority of them are geriatric. They need special medications and diets to help them live out their years comfortably.” Some of the animals at Tiger World are rescues from zoos that closed or were downsizing. Some are from people who thought it would be fun to have a wild animal as a pet and realized quickly that they are exactly that… wild animals.
A great example are the Cougars, Jake and Katrina. They were previously kept under a deck at their home. They were both malnourished and due to the harsh confinements, they developed bone deformities. Now, under the watchful eyes of the Tiger World staff, they are both doing well.
In addition to the other felines, there are two beautiful White Lions named Michael and Star. Three beautiful cubs were born at Tiger World that carry the white gene. Tiger World is a part of the Lion and Tiger Species Survival Program (SSP) which allows them to help with participation in the breeding of these animals. They do training shows with the cubs and bring in their staff to give the animals love and affection. Personally, I’d love to participate because these animals just want to be loved, especially the cubs.
It wouldn’t be right to not mention Miracle, the White Tiger. She is beautiful and earned her name after a freak accident as a cub. After almost drowning when her mother accidentally dropped her into a water bowl, she was rushed to a vet that revived her, but wasn’t sure she would make it. Go pay her a visit as she has shown the world how beautiful survival can be.
Lions, Tigers, and Baboons, Oh My!
Tiger World has a wide array of exotic animals including birds and reptiles from Africa, Asia, Australia, and North/South America. Many of these beautiful creatures are either endangered species or extinct species from the wild.
In the African area, you will find the Barbary Lion which is extinct in the wild, but exists in some zoos. There are also several endangered animals including the East-African Crowned Crane, Ring-tailed Lemur, Mandrill, and Timbavati White Lion. I mentioned these White Lions, Michael and Star, earlier. Other African animals include African Lions, Olive Baboons, African Spurred Tortoise, and more!
In the Asian area, you will find the Syrian Brown Bears that are extinct in the wild because of their native war-torn nation. They were sadly hunted to extinction in the wild. On the endangered list in this area are the Bengal Tiger, White Bengal Tiger, Golden Tabby Bengal Tiger, Siberian Tiger, Indochinese Tiger, and White-handed Gibbon. Tiger World recently held a fundraising event called “Toasting the Tigers” for the Indochinese Tiger. Hang out with Japanese Snow Macaque, better known as snow monkeys. Then lay your eyes on Indian Blue Peacock, Moluccan Cockatoo, and Eurasian Eagle Owl.
In the Australian area, they recently added the New Guinea Singing Dogs which are endangered. Don’t expect to hear them sing any songs you may recognize because when they bark it is like a yodel. They are very rare to see. Also, in this area you will find the Red Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby, Wallaroo, Kookaburra, and Emu. Over in the pond area, are some very vocal Australian Black Swans which I found could be quite frisky!
Lastly, but not least are the North/South American animals. There are beautiful Amazon Parrots, Blue and Gold Macaws, a yellow and green Anaconda, a Columbian Red-tailed Boa, several tortoises, Artic and Timber Wolves, and a Black Jaguar. There is also the most beautiful Mute Swan I’ve ever seen in the pond area.
Supporting the Big Cats
In addition to seeing all the animals on your own, Tiger World offers unique experiences such as catching an educational presentation, experiencing a sloth encounter, participating in a guided tour, watching a training session, or feeding the big cats!
While I was visiting that day, I had an opportunity to speak with several guests. Marty and Tracie Edge were visiting from Swansboro with their two grandsons, Liam and Miles. They mentioned they were enjoying their visit because “we homeschool the children and this opportunity is excellent for them.” Liam and Miles especially like the Black Leopard.
I also spoke with Charlotte resident, Mary, who was visiting with her grandson. I asked her what she liked about Tiger World and she said, “Spending time with my grandchildren.” She also added that her son-in-law donated the pool for the Tiger enclosure. I’m sure the Tigers have appreciated that pool over the hot summer months.
More Than a Zoo
As my tour was ending, I listened carefully to several things. The one thing that was abundantly clear to me is that Tiger World has been serving a purpose for these animals and to our community for over 11 years. As stated on their website, their “goal is to provide the best environment in captivity for the animals while also providing a stimulating learning environment for visitors.” They need us to help them exist and we need them in our world. Aubrey said, “Animals in captivity isn’t bad considering the current state of the environment, current prevalence of poaching, and the rate of habitat destruction.” She also stressed again, “Wild animals don’t make good pets!”
As I was departing, I asked myself, “Why did I wait so long to make the trip to Tiger World?” I enjoyed my first visit so much that I even went back to support the Indochinese Tiger during the “Toasting the Tiger” event. I plan to continue to visit Wayne and Radar in the future.
As one of few accredited zoos in the nation, Tiger World operates with no tax support. They are a licensed and USDA approved facility and registered non-profit organization. If you are interested in visiting Tiger World, they are open year-round and only close for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Tiger World is located at 4400 Cooke Road, Rockwell, NC 28138. Visit their website here or contact them at 704-279-6363.
Boo at the Zoo
The 12th annual Boo at the Zoo event is happening Friday, October 25 from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 from 5-9 p.m. Families are invited to see exotic animals, trick-or-treat, and dress up as the zoo is transformed into a spooky Halloween extravaganza. Tickets are only $6 per person in advance, $5 for season pass holders, and $10 at the door. Funds raised will help Tiger World with disaster recovery planning. For more events details, check out the Facebook event pages for Friday and Saturday.