June 01, 2007 12:00am
WHILE most cats do not like getting wet, Odin the white tiger loves to hit the water.
The six-year-old male Bengal regularly dives into a large glass-fronted tank to gobble up chunks of meat in front of amazed crowds at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Zoo in Vallejo, near San Francisco.
Trainer Lee Munro — who hand-raised Odin from the time he was a cub — said despite his 202kg frame, the big cat was deceptively lithe.
“When you actually see him dive underwater he looks so graceful,” he said. “He makes a funny face — a smiley, weird-looking face — and it’s actually to close his nostrils to stop the water from going into his nose.
“People go crazy at seeing him coming under the water. They are completely wowed.”
Munro said Odin — who is 3.1m long from head to tail — was one of only a handful of tigers around the world who would perform the stunt.
“Odin loves the water and he loves food,” he said. “Not all tigers will dive and swim underwater for the meat treats.
“It’s like some humans: some people love to go swimming and spend time in the water and others don’t really like it.
“There are only two parks in the world where you can see this done — here and at our sister park in New Jersey.”
Munro said tigers were the most powerful swimmers out of all land-dwelling animals.
“Most big cats just do not want to go near water at all, but tigers love water,” he said.
“Where they are from in South-East Asia is a hot climate and it’s one way to cool down.
“Plus they hunt in and around water. They’re an ambush predator so they wait for prey to come down to the water.”
White tigers, which get their colour from an unusual genetic combination, are extremely rare.
None has been seen in the wild since the last white tiger was shot and killed in 1958.