What Do Tigers Eat in Zoos?
What Do Tigers Eat?
Tigers are carnivores and in the wild will normally kill other animals to eat though they will steal food from other carnivores if the opportunity arises. Depending on the size of the kill and how much was consumed it may be several more days before another kill is made. In a zoo environment keepers balance out the food provided to ensure that the tigers remain fit and healthy.
The tiger subspecies vary in size from the Amur Panthera tigris altaica which may weigh as much as 700+ lbs down to the tiny Sumatran Panthera tigris sumatrae which averages out at around 265+ lbs. Zoos will adjust the amount of food given according to the weight of the
individual animals. The average daily zoo fare for the average size tiger would be 15 lbs meat for a male and 13 lbs for a female. They are easily capable of eating three to four times this amount though.
Some dysfunctional zoos will deliberately breed white and subspecific hybrid tigers which are of no conservation value. As some of the white tigers are designer bred 'commercial' crosses and have both Bengal and Amur genes the weights may fluctuate.
Through a large part of the world beef would be the normal meat fed. It is not always the case though. In some Middle Eastern zoos they will feed donkey and camel meat. In Indonesia at the Taman Safari they feed mainly imported Kangaroo meat. Horse and Pony, Pig and Goat, Calf, Water Buffalo, Deer, Chicken and Rabbit are all in use in some collections. Even a few Fish may be given on occasion.
Some collections do not feed 'meat' as such at all but feed processed meat manufactured from meat bi-products (feeding of exclusively processed feed and boneless meat leads to skull malformation in captive tigers). At the same time there are zoos which feed heads almost exclusively to their large cats and argue that these are the best food. They are fooling nobody but themselves as in reality they are looking for a cheap option.
Whatever it is that is being fed it will usually be accompanied by a mineral/vitamin supplement. There are several of these on the market especially manufactured for large cats such as tigers. These include 'Mazuri' who have a range of products to add to feeds. Normally this will involve scoring the meat with a knife and rubbing the powdered supplement into the flesh. Most Tigers find it quite palatable and will normally lick it off and ingest the supplement before they start eating.
The Meat Diet
In the wild Tigers will feed in the main on the meat of their prey but will also eat some of the internal organs, stomach contents as well as skin and bone. Within a zoo to offer something like this to tigers is not just natural but is life enriching as well.
Sadly some zoos will look on giving bone or hide to their tigers as enrichment rather than established routine. Other collections will actually pluck chickens before they feed them to their tigers and so deny their animals not just the activity of plucking them for themselves but the actvity as well.
One or two zoos deviate from the norm and will feed larger food items and not offer food again for several days. Whereas this may be more 'natural' there are few, if any benefits to such systems.
Professional Zoo Keepers will regularly pick suitable grasses for their Tigers and make this available. In the same way that a domestic cat will eat grass to help it cough up fur balls and small pieces of bone Tigers like to do the same. Even if tigers may be held in grass enclosures it is best to bring 'untainted' grass from elsewhere.
Tigers which are used to a diet of beef are likely to turn up their noses when given something different like mutton or goat. They will eat it but it may take them a few days to get round to it.
Live feeding of tigers and other large cats is not necessary. In fact it is cruel and unnecessary and is the mark of the ignorant dysfunctional zoo. It may be natural for tigers to kill but it is a natural activity that they can manage quite well without.
The instinct to kill remains with all big cats regardless of how many generations they have been bred in captivity. The only time then that live feeding should ever be 'taught' in captivity is if a big cat were to be returned to the wild. As the wild is in a mess it is highly unlikely that many tigers will be returned to the wild in the near foreseeable future. For release animals the capability to successfully hunt and kill would be as important as fear and distrust of human beings.
Good modern zoos have no immediate plans to return Tigers to the wild anytime soon. Zoos are about the cooperative long term management which consists of breeding programmes for genetically viable and healthy populations. Release may be possible in many years to come if a safe and healthy wild is available. The anti-zoo groups attempt with phrases like "it is extremely difficult to return a captive-bred big cat to the wild and this practically never happens" to instil misinformation. The good zoos have not said that this is an immediate intention, far from it, so that anti-zoos imply a lie which they have invented themselves.
Tiger Feeding - Don't Blink or You Will Miss It
Animal Rights/Anti-Zoo groups will often, in their blissful ignorance (or deliberately), state that tigers in captivity are showing signs of madness because of the animals pacing up and down. Most all big cats pace in the hour or so leading up to feeding time. They get excited. They do not do it all the time. They may do it at other times too as they progress round their 'territory' as they would in the wild....but spend the day in a zoo and you will see that it is not a constant behaviour.
Zoo visitors like to see big cats at 'feeding time' and some collections make a feature of it and will advertise the times at which it will take place. This may involve throwing the feed into a pen, hiding it within the enclosure ot suspending it on poles or zip lines. At times, and as routine in some collections feeding time will coincide with locking animals into inside enclosures. This allows vacated pens to be cleaned or maintained.