By G. Michael Dobbsnews@thereminder.com
SPRINGFIELD – Albus is like most other four-month old kittens. He plays with a variety of toys, walks up to the edge of a shallow pool of water and is intimated and runs against the pants leg of a friendly human. He’s made headway in ripping up a pillow. He “talks” at people as well, which his way of asking for food.
The difference is that Albus is a tiger – technical not a kitten but a cub – and already weighs 35 pounds. He is the latest resident of the Zoo at Forest Park and Education Center.
Zoo Director John Wilson explained that Albus is a hybrid of several tiger breeds. When offered the opportunity of having him join the zoo for a limited time, he said yes.
Wilson said if the “general consensus” agrees with keeping Albus, he would be a permanent attraction.
The zoo did have a pair of tigers about 18 years ago, Wilson said. Albus has taken residence in the area where two bears lived. He explained the male bear died last October and the female is now in “retirement” in another zoo in Florida with another male.
The female, Homey Bear” was introduced to her new mate and acclimated quickly.
“They did great,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that while transporting Homey Bear to Florida, he also had the opportunity of brining back Justice, a young bald eagle who has sustained shoulder injuries and could not be released back into the wild.
Albus has been at the zoo for about two weeks and Wilson said he is still getting used to his surroundings and loud noises. The cries of the peacocks at the zoo have unnerved Albus a bit, Wilson noted.
Albus is still on a bottle, but Wilson and his staff are starting to wean him off the liquid diet and onto raw meat.
“It’s a slow process,” he said.
The staff doesn’t have a feeding schedule for Albus, rather Wilson said, “We’re on his schedule.”
A bottle is about the only way to secure Albus’ cooperation in taking a picture.
He took a swipe at my camera’s strap, just like my cats do with a piece of string.
The zoo is open from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s website is www.forestparkzoo.org