11/22 VIDEO UPDATE
Here is a video I just discovered showing these kids action.
I had no idea baby tigers were water-lovers. And, to be able to work with human trainers is just amazing.
‘Tigers have a natural desire and ability to swim,’ said Dr Bhagavan Antle, who set up the tiger pool at his animal park in South Carolina. ‘It is rarely seen and we wanted to be able to present it to people so they could really get the feel of that incredible beauty and grace that a tiger has in the water.
‘Tigers have modified webbing between their toes that makes their feet like flippers and they are superior swimmers. ‘Because of those attributes we thought it was something people would love so we built this custom-made pool to allow people to experience this unique behaviour.’
The pool, which is filled with 100,000 gallons of water, has one side made of glass, allowing visitors a close-up view. Each tiger is introduced to the water a few months after they are born. But with the potential to grow to over 500lb and 8ft long, their time swimming with humans is limited.
By the time they are a year old, their handlers prefer to sit it out on the sidelines.
Together with their handlers, Moksha Bybee and Ragani Ferrante, tigers Balavan, Bali, and Oden display unusually close interaction between man and beast at the park which is called The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, or TIGERS.
‘There are other pictures out there of tigers underwater but people have never been able to get this close to a tiger because it is so dangerous,’ said Dr Antle. ‘These are the only shots I have ever seen where people are swimming with tigers like this.’
Dr Antle has a 25-year career caring for threatened species and has about 200 animals in large enclosures at the TIGERS park. He said: ‘I started swimming with tigers about 25 years ago.