Brown’s Zoo gets rare, white Siberian tiger
By LARRY ESKRIDGE/of the Daily Ledger
Published: Saturday, June 17, 2006 2:02 PM CDT
SMITHFIELD — It is estimated that only 400 white Siberian tigers exist in the wild. It is further estimated that the species will become extinct in the next three years.
So where can a person go to see one?
How about Fulton County?
Recently, Nancy Brown of Brown’s Oakridge Zoo heard from a facility closing in Kansas. Would she be interested in a 10 year-old male white Siberian tiger?
The answer, of course, was "Of course."
Brown’s Zoo, which is federally licensed and the only family facility in Illinois with the proper state licensing, has a large number of big cats, including black and spotted leopards, cougars, bobcats, and, of course, lions and tigers. Brown said white tigers receive their color from a recessive gene, much the same as black leopards coming from the spotted kind. And that’s in addition to a variety of other wildlife.
Brown said she and her husband Ivan have been involved in raising exotic animals for around 16 years. The facility raised game birds and deer, then began rescuing lion and tiger cubs. Some of the animals were sent to other homes, and the Browns began to keep some of them back.
Recently Brown helped place three bear cubs in other zoos, one in Michigan and the other two in Wisconsin.
Over the years, Brown has learned a great deal about her animals. One is that the Siberian tiger, contrary to what most of us believe about cats, love the water and are excellent swimmers. They also love the cold, and need to be hosed down during the hot summer months.
And Brown is convinced animals have emotions. She noted a male yellow tiger had been acting unhappy when the white tiger and his mate were brought in, so they were giving him some extra attention to sooth his feelings.
And it’s not only the tigers who require special attention.
"There’s a lot of work involved," said Brown. "People don’t understand. It’s not just providing care but also having the proper facilities to keep the animals happy, healthy, and content."
That extra work includes feeding tiger cubs every three hours around the clock and spraying the bears with water every two hours during the heat of the summer.
"I don’t know what the word ‘vacation’ means," laughed Brown. "But when I hear the lion roar at night, I’m in Africa. That’s my vacation."
And now matter how comfortable she gets with her charges, she always remembers one thing.
"They never lose that wild instinct," she said. "My husband gave me a rule when we decided to keep the big cats: Don’t trust them. We don’t go in with them. We are just content to interact with them through the fence."
"They trust you, but they are still wild," she continued. "The instinct is still there. Maybe in 200 to 300 years they will be completely domesticated like the dog."
Brown’s Oakridge Zoo is located at 17732 N. Dairy Farm Road, Smithfield, southwest of town. Zoo hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday; 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Friday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 783-2112 or visit the website at www.brownsoakridgezoo.com.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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