Shosho the Siberian tiger leaps up to swat a box of his favourite cereal from keeper Ashley Gombert, in this heartwarming display of affection.
Shosho, who weighs 40 stone and can reach eight-foot when standing on his hind legs, shared a kiss and cuddle with Ashley and the pair even had a dip together in a nearby creek, close to Shosho’s home at the Seaview Lion Park near Port Elizabeth.
Despite being well over six-foot tall himself, Ashley, 35 from Port Elizabeth, who describes himself as a tiger wrangler, is dwarfed by the big cat.
Paw show: Shosho the Siberian tiger tries to swat a box of a certain cereal from keeper Ashley Gombert as the pair play together at the Seaview Lion Park near Port Elizabteth, South Africa
‘He is a big beast so being in his presence is physically challenging to say the least,’ said Ashley.
‘His personality is very friendly – you can handle him easily.
‘Shosho is a special guy, very calm and enjoys being touched and interacting in general with people.
‘But he is at heart a potentially lethal killer and if he did decide to have me for breakfast there’s nothing I could do about it.’
Fur play: Ashley shares another cuddle with Shosho
Pals: Siberian tigers like Shosho are under threat with only 360 believed to be living in the wilds of eastern Russia
Give us a kiss: Keeper Ashley shares a tender moment with Shosho
Shosho is part of a Siberian tiger breeding programme which aims to increase the genetic stock of these endangered cats available to zoos throughout the world.
Only 360 Siberian tigers are believed to live in the wild of eastern Russia.
Staff at the park make sure they interact as much as the giant cats will allow them – which means that they can be managed more easily than in captivity creatures unused to human contact.
Thanks to the close relationship Ashley and Shosho enjoy, the tiger wrangler insists that whenever his tiger best friend needs a medical check or vaccination, rather than being knocked out with an anaesthetic Shosho will happily sit through the treatment.
Ashley explained this is not only better for Shosho’s health, but the tiger is more stimulated and happier to live in captivity.
‘Johannesburg Zoo ran out of space so we offered our services and they are now part of a breeding project,’ said Ashley.
Training: Staff at the park make sure they interact as much as the giant cats will allow – which means that they can be managed more easily than in captivity creatures unused to human contact
Cereal killer: Big Shosho takes a sniff at the breakfast favourite
Big softie: Although Ashley plays with Shosho as if he were a family pet he is always aware that the lethal killer could have him for breakfast at any time
Shosho is part of a Siberian tiger breeding programme which aims to increase the genetic stock of these endangered cats available to zoos throughout the world
‘These tigers are endangered so we want to breed them to strengthen the genetics of the species.
‘I bring Shosho out of his enclosure to groom him and take them for a walk for exercise.
‘He communicates by giving me a hug and kiss – and he will jump on me when lie with him.
‘From a management point of view we need to take biological samples and treat Shosho with medication to keep him healthy.
‘By making sure he is used to humans we can inject him without having to knock him out with drugs.
‘This is better for Shosho physically – and mentally he is in a happier place by having lots of friends to play with.’
The post The GRRREATEST of friends: Unique bond between 40 stone Tiger and his fearless keeper appeared first on Animals Lovers.