Friday, January 21, 2011

Tiger, Tiger

HARBIN-- Tiger Park -- Part 2 of 3

Harbin is home to one of the largest tiger preserves in the world. The preserve is home to hundreds of Siberian tigers and a few other wild cats – panthers, lions, and ligers included. The tigers were split up into different holding areas a few acres in size and allowed to roam around. Buses rigged with bars over the windows took us through the various areas as the driver tried not to run over any of the precious beasts. Most of the tigers were indifferent to our presence, but a few pawed the bus or grunted if it slowed down.

In the largest area, our bus pulled into a large open area and stopped. Tigers started moving our way in all directions. A second car entered the area and the tigers perked up. The car pulled up beside our bus and the driver opened his door quickly and threw something onto the top of the vehicle. It was a live chicken. Feeding time.

Two tigers jumped for the bird, which tried to flap away, but soon found itself in the jaws of a third tiger. A few more chickens and pheasants were thrown atop the car, meeting similar fates as the first. But this was just part of the tour – for a fee, tourists could pay for slabs of meat ($7) or live chickens ($14), pheasants ($14), goats ($90) and even cattle ($200). Call it cruel, but it made the experience a bit more realistic in terms of watching the tigers pounce their prey.

CAT NAP: One of the tigers sits atop a rock, indifferent to the bus fully of tasty tourists, which I happened to be in, not 10 feet away

SPOTS AMONG THE SNOW: Each holding area had a certain number of tigers. The largest had about 30

BIG SCRATCHING POST: A tiger scratches into a tree in one of the holding pens. It's funny how these big cats imitate smaller domesticated cats

LOUNGING AROUND: A tiger shows off his/her better side for a bus full of tourists

PRICE FOR FOOD: Call it what you want, tigers need to eat too

SNOW WHITE: The tiger preserve had Siberian white tigers in special pens

HERE KITTY, KITTY: Some of the tigers were a bit camera shy, or annoyed with all the tourists trying to get their photos

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: One tiger found our bus interesting enough to get a close up look

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