National Geographic photographer Steve Winter recently visited a wildlife sanctuary for an assignment on captive tigers in the US. When he squatted down to photograph a tiliger (a mix of a lion and tiger), the 275-pound cat charged and jumped onto the photographer.
Here’s a short video of the hair-raising incident:
Winter was visiting Safari Sanctuary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where the tiliger named Langely lives. The 18-month-old tiliger (a second-generation hybrid of a male tiger and a female ligress) had been discarded from an exotic animal park after he grew too big and dangerous for petting and photo ops.
“[H]e’s lived inside a house and is walked around the property on a leash like a pet,” Winter writes. “He was still young and playful — and charged me when I was squatting to photograph him. I was unhurt.”
Here’s what the photographer said he learned from shooting this story:
Most people don’t know that there are more tigers living in captivity in the United States than still survive in the wild; visitors are wrongly led to believe they’re helping conservation when they visit these attractions. Tigers that are crossed with lions have very serious health problems; these two species do not interbreed in nature, and this is done strictly to attract tourists. There are also public safety issues: there is no national law on big cat ownership and Oklahoma has no state law on owning big cats. The Big Cat Public Safety Act, currently in the US Senate and the House, would better protect both animals and the public.
Image credits: Video by Nick Ruggia