The Rapidian

John Ball Zoo unveils new tiger exhibit

This summer, visitors to the John Ball Zoo will have the chance to view a tiger exhibit for the first time since 2009.

How to visit John Ball Zoo

  • John Ball Zoo is open daily 9-6 p.m.
  • Located at 1300 W Fulton St., one mile west of downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Admission is $8.50 for adults and $6.50 for children 3-12. 2 and under are free. 

On June 14, a new tiger exhibit entitled “Crawford Tigers of the Realm” opened for public viewing at the John Ball Zoo. The zoo has been without tigers since 2009, when a female tiger was moved to Roosevelt Park Zoo following the death of her male companion three years earlier.

The new exhibit, which took three years of development and planning, was named in honor of lead donors Bill and Marilyn Crawford. The exhibit features three Amur tigers—two males and one female. The male tigers, Kuza and Yuri, are brothers who were born in 2011. The third tiger, Nika, is an unrelated female born in 2005.

Amur tigers are the largest species of cat in the world, weighing up to 800 pounds and growing up to 10 feet long. Their name derives from the Amur region in Russia, from which they originate. Due to poaching and habitat destruction this species of tiger is also dangerously close to extinction, with less than 400 adult Amur tigers remaining in the wild. 

“They're a magnificent animal for viewing at a zoo, they're highly endangered and they work really well in the climate,” says Animal Care Supervisor Tim Sampson. “Where they're from is very similar to the climate that you find here, which makes working with the animals a lot easier.”

Since tigers tend to sleep during the day and hunt at night, Zoo Ambassador Jackie Fazekas suggests that visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the tigers outside of their holding building visit either in the early morning or late afternoon. 

“We're currently housing two males together, which is very unusual,” says Sampson. “We have two brothers who were born and raised together. It will be interesting to see two male tigers that are over 440 pounds apiece interacting.”

The exhibit will be expanded in Spring 2015 with a river habitat that will allow for underwater viewing of the tigers. The new habitat will be connected to the current exhibit by a fenced trail running parallel to the public path, allowing visitors the chance to glimpse a tiger walking on the trail beside them.

Photos by Mark Gray and Lindsay Fischer.

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