World Lion Day

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Hi, everyone! Are you having a good weekend? I hope you are all taking time to relax, because Saturdays are for just “lion” around…

All bad puns aside, today is World Lion Day! And what better way to celebrate the “the fiercest and most magnanimous of the four footed beasts (Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1755) than by learning some of their most interesting facts?

There are only two subspecies of the lion – the African and the Asiatic – and there is only a 1.1% genetic difference between the two. Just like house cats, lions use their tails to communicate anything from intimidation to flirtation. A mother lion first teaches her cubs how to hunt by having the babies chase her tail along the ground. Also like your little kitty at home, lions may spend up to 21 hours a day sleeping, often on their backs with their paws in the air, or draped over a shady tree branch.

Lion claws are made in layered sheaths that retract when not needed, and that eventually shed to reveal new claws. Their claws may be up to 1½ inches in length, to any antelope’s dismay. When lions do capture some prey (they will eat nearly any meat, even other lions who have died from old age or disease), they use their back teeth, called carnassals, to cut the meat into chunks that they then swallow without chewing.

They are very adept predators, but can you guess who their main nemesis is?

It’s the porcupine! Even though porcupines are small in comparison to the king of the big cats, a lion who has gotten too close a porcupine will often have to bear the sharp quills in his mouth or jaw for the rest of his life. I hear it is very embarrassing.

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What Else Is Awesome about Tigers?

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This is the first thing I do every morning.

Besides everything, of course!

The word “tiger” comes from the Greek tigris, which is based on the Persian word meaning “arrow.” They were called this because they are so freaky fast and agile! We already talked about their killer canines and their super sensitive paws, but their speed (up to 35mph) and ability to swim up to four miles also help them be super predators in the wild. Tigers prefer to hunt and live alone, though sometimes, they do share their kills. If a group does form, the name for that is a streak of tigers.

My favorite thing to do with animals is to figure out how we can relate to them on a human level. I think this is where we can really convince people to care about other creatures and get rid of all of those scary stigmas. A lot of people are against the anthropomorphism of animals. They think it is ridiculous to assume that animals and humans can be compared on an emotional level. I, however, think animals undeniably have feelings and attributes to which we, as humans, can relate. That is part of the reason we keep studying them! Ever heard Animal Planet’s slogan? It’s “Surprisingly Human.” I love that! The more we learn and the more we study, the more complex and amazing our animal friends become. Awesome.Image

Louis Dorfman, an animal behaviorist, calls tigers the “most emotional of the big cats.” Because they have such a large capacity for emotions, they can be as snuggly and affectionate as housecats. You can find countless images on the internet of tigers “hugging” their trainers, or rubbing on them affectionately (“he’s just tenderizing them” is what my dad would say). Even though I like to pretend that I could go up to any wild animal and instantly be her best friend, this isn’t true. For anyone. So for the record, I am not, nor will I ever, condone approaching any animal (even if he’s in a zoo) unless you are trained and prepared. And even then, you should be very careful.

Back to the cool stuff. So I have picked out some of the crazy facts about tigers that stand out to me, but I have left out the main characteristic tigers are known for: their stripes! Tigers’ stripes are important for camouflage, but did you also know that each set of stripes is totally unique? Stripes for a tiger are just like fingerprints for a human. Amazing! Most tigers have over 100 stripes on their body, and they are skin deep, so even if you shave a tiger (not the best way to make friends), you will still be able to see the stripes in the skin pigment. So cool.

I think #TigerTuesday has been a total success! What do you think? And what should we talk about next?

Photos found on Pinterest.

Tiger Paws

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Tiger’s have very sensitive pads on their paws that help them feel even the slightest vibrations.

This photo was taken at my hometown zoo – The Great Bend Zoo & Raptor Center. The keepers were able to get some really cool photos while one of the tigers was getting his physical. I have a new item for my bucket list: shake a tiger’s paw!Tiger Paw

Speaking of paws, have any of you ever read the short story, ‘The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs? That story used to really scare me! I wonder if tiger paws have any magical properties…

You can follow the Great Bend Zoo & Raptor Center on Facebook or check them out here: http://www.GreatBendZoo.com

#TigerTuesday

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I just had to share this photo. Wow! Look at those teeth. Tigers have the largest canines out of all of the big cat species. They have a pretty powerful bite, too. I wish his ears were twisted around so we could see those “false eyes.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out my Twitter feed for more on #TigerTuesday.Tiger 1

Photo by Michael Nichols of National Geographic