published Monday, November 12th, 2012

Tigers 'burn bright' in northern Alabama exhibit

An exhibit featuring Bengal tigers Alya, Aurora and Ravi will open Saturday at Tigers for Tomorrow in Attalla, Ala.
An exhibit featuring Bengal tigers Alya, Aurora and Ravi will open Saturday at Tigers for Tomorrow in Attalla, Ala.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: Bengal tiger exhibit

* Where: Tigers for Tomorrow at Untamed Mountain, Attalla, Ala.

* When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

* Cost: $12 per adult; $6 per child

* Information: Visit www.tigersfortomorrow.org.

There are fewer than 50 Bengal tigers in the world that sport a "golden tabby" coloring — and one of them will be revealed to the public Saturday at Tigers for Tomorrow in northern Alabama.

"They look sort of like a Creamsicle ice pop," Tigers for Tomorrow executive director Susan Steffens said. "They're orange and white. We feel we are very special to have one of these to use as an ambassador for her species."

The orange sherbet-colored Ravi lives in a 7,000-square-foot enclosure with two other Bengal tigers: a standard black and gold tiger named Ayla, and Aurora, a snow-white tiger.

"You can really see with this exhibit that all animals are individuals," Steffens said. "Ayla is the most spoiled, she runs the group; Aurora is the most athletic; Ravi is the little showgirl out of them. She knows she is special, we believe."

The trio spend their days playing with each other and eat a variety of meat, including pork, beef, venison, chicken and turkey.

"People think tigers hunt a lot, but what people don't see in the wild is they also enjoy play," said Wilbur McCauley, director of operations and animal care. "They play with logs, twigs and various objects they find. In captivity, we give them toys, a pool to swim in and a large jungle gym that they like to climb on."

The tigers were given to Tigers for Tomorrow, a nonprofit animal rescue attraction in Attalla, Ala., about a year ago, but Saturday marks the first time the public can see them. More than 130 animals live at the site.

"It's a great way to get in touch with nature, have a full understanding of how our footprints on nature affect generations to come," Steffens said. "Our main goal at the preserve is to teach people about giving animals respect and dignity."

The exhibit also will feature "Keeper Talks" each day at 1 p.m. CST and occasional appearances by a royal white tiger cub named Bgemga.

Steffens said the Bengal tigers are the first cats Tigers for Tomorrow has taken in that are not rescued animals. She said they're unique because they are pure Bengal tigers.

"So many of the cats we take in are generic tigers -- they're not Siberian, they're not Bengal -- they've been in roadside zoos or someone's backyard, and they are not animals we can classify as one species," she said. "These are all Bengal tigers."

McCauley said the exhibit is a chance for visitors to see a golden-tabby colored tiger before they disappear completely.

"There are just about 36 of them in captivity in the U.S.," he said. "Tigers, of course, are endangered. Many people have seen white tigers -- there are about 300 in captivity -- but I rarely meet people who have seen a golden tabby before."

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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