Ligers Make a "Dynamite" Leap Into the Limelight

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Ligers Make a "Dynamite" Leap Into the Limelight
It's half lion, half tiger, and completely real. Now thanks to a cameo in the 2004 cult movie Napoleon Dynamite,
the liger has leaped into the limelight, prompting fans to ask, What are they really like?
The faintly striped, shaggy-maned creatures are the offspring of male lions and female tigers, which gives them the
ability to both roar like lions and chuff like tigers—a supposedly affectionate sound that falls somewhere between
a purr and a raspberry.
Weighing in at about a thousand pounds (450 kilograms) each, they typically devour 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of raw meat in a meal. "For
the most part they're really laid back," said Jason Hutcherson, vice president of Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia. "They like to
swim and play in the water."
The drive-through wildlife park is believed to have the country's largest concentration of ligers, housing ten of the massive cats. Since 1999
the park has bred its male lion and female tiger many times, producing about 24 cubs. Not all of them have been healthy, though.
“We've had 3 out of 24 that, for all practical purposes, were normal but developed as they grew older some kind of neurological disorder,"
Hutcherson said. Autopsies didn't reveal what caused the cubs to develop "head shakes," so park staff "chalked it up to a genetic defect,"
Hutcherson said.
Accredited zoos frown on the practice of mixing two different species and have never bred ligers, says Jane Ballentine, a spokesperson for the
American Zoo and Aquarium Association, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. "Keeping the two species separate has always been standard
procedure," she said.
Long before fans heard Napoleon claim that the liger is "pretty much my favorite animal," there have been rumors of the hybrid's existence in
the wild. Lion-tiger mating occurs in captivity. But it does not happen in the wild, probably for the same reason humans do not breed with
gorillas or chimps. "Crossing the species line" does not generally occur in the wild, because "it would result in diminished fitness of the
offspring," said Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.
Geography is another obstacle to natural lion-tiger mating. Wild tigers mainly inhabit Asia, whereas the lion's current natural habitat is almost
entirely in Africa. The Gir National Forest in India is the only place in the world where tiger and lion ranges overlap, fueling speculation that
wild ligers roamed the area hundreds of years ago. Tilson doesn't believe it. "This would be highly improbable, because the Gir forest is
really very dry and not optimal tiger habitat," he said.
A Liger Named Patrick
Perched on the edge of the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles, California, a lone liger, named Patrick, lives at Shambala Preserve, which bills
itself as "a haven for endangered exotic big cats."
"The interesting thing about these animals is that they have the best qualities of the tiger and the best of the lion," said movie actress and
conservationist Tippi Hedren, who has run Shambala since 1972.
"Those qualities manifest themselves in the fact that they like to be in the water [a tiger trait] and are very social [a lion trait]." Many of the cats
at the 80-acre (32-hectare) sanctuary are orphans or castoffs from circuses, zoos, and private owners who could no longer care for the
animals.
Patrick arrived at the sanctuary seven years ago after federal authorities shutdown the roadside zoo in Illinois where he lived.
The 800-pound (360-kilogram) liger was kept in such a small cage that his hind-leg muscles had started to atrophy, said Hedren, who starred
in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Patrick's compound at Shambala allows him plenty of room for exercise. A stream runs through his
compound, so his tiger half can play in the water or his lion half can stay out of it, whichever he chooses.
Liger in the Hills
Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish, South Dakota, recently acquired a liger named Samson and 48 other big cats after federal
authorities closed a Minnesota wildlife facility.
"Everyone who comes wants to see Samson," said Trevor Smith, an environmental biologist and sanctuary board member.
The four-and-a-half-year-old hybrid tips the scales at over a thousand pounds (over 450 kilograms), and eats 30 to 50 pounds (14 to 23
kilograms) of raw meat every other day.
The sanctuary—whose mission is to educate people about wild animals and emphasize that they don't make good pets—has seen a surge in
visitors since Samson's arrival in June. Much of the public's curiosity about the liger stems from Napoleon Dynamite, Smith said. Smith
worries that Samson is "becoming too much of a freak show." If Samson had his way, Smith said, he'd sleep away the day inside, away from
public view.
"We've had a huge ethical debate at the sanctuary on whether or not we should lock him out of his shed," Smith said. "But at the same time,
he's why the visitors are coming."
Wholphin has a whale of a calf
Saturday, April 16, 2005
HONOLULU — A mix of a false killer whale and bottlenose dolphin, the only such cross in captivity, has given birth to a female calf, according to
officials at Sea Life Park Hawaii.
The young wholphin is one-fourth false killer whale — which actually is a member of the dolphin family — and three-fourths Atlantic bottlenose
dolphin. Her skin is an even blend of a dolphin's light gray and the black coloring of a false killer whale.
Though both are members of the dolphin family, false killer whales and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are different species.
False killer whales grow to 20 feet and weigh up to 2 tons. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins reach a maximum size of 12 feet and can weigh up to
700 pounds.
However, said Louis Herman, a leading expert in the study of marine mammals, "They are not that far apart in terms of taxonomy."
The calf is jumbo-sized, already the size of a 1-year-old bottlenose.
"Mother and calf are doing very well," said Dr. Renato Lenzi, general manager of Sea Life Park
by Dolphin Discovery.
The calf was born Dec. 23 to Kekaimalu, Park officials said Thursday. They delayed announcement of
the birth because of recent changes in ownership and operations at the park.
There have been reports of wholphins in the wild, Herman said.
Photo in the News: Polar Bear-Grizzly Hybrid
Discovered
May 11, 2006—DNA analysis has confirmed that a bear shot in the Canadian Arctic last month is a half-polar bear, half-grizzly
hybrid. While the two bear species have interbred in zoos, this is the first evidence of a wild polar bear-grizzly offspring.
Jim Martell (pictured at left), a 65-year-old hunter from Idaho, shot the bear April 16 on the southern tip of Banks Island (see
Northwest Territories map), the CanWest News Service reports.
Wildlife officials seized the bear after noticing its white fur was interspersed with brown patches. It also had long claws, a
concave facial profile, and a humped back, which are characteristic of a grizzly.
Now the genetic tests have confirmed that the hybrid's father was a grizzly and its mother was a polar bear.
"I don't think anyone expected it to actually happen in the wild," said Ian Stirling, a polar bear expert with the Canadian Wildlife
Service in Edmonton.
Polar bears and grizzlies require an extended mating ritual to reproduce, Stirling said. Both live by themselves in large, open
habitats.
To prevent wasting their eggs, females ovulate only after spending several days with a male, Stirling explained. "Then they
mate several times over several days."
In other words, the mating between the polar bear and grizzly was more than a chance encounter. "That's what makes it quite
interesting," he added.
Stirling says the hybrid has no official name, though locals have taken to calling it a "pizzly" and a "grolar bear."
Adam wins tourist attraction its stripes
A Kent visitor attraction has an unlikely new star - a cross
between a zebra and a donkey.
Monday, 31 March, 2003
Adam the zeedonk can be seen at Groombridge Place Gardens near Tunbridge Wells and is thought to be one of only two in the UK.
The animal has the legs of a zebra and the body of a donkey and has been brought to
Kent from the USA, where he was bred.
He was unveiled on Monday - one day before April Fool's Day - to avoid any suspicion
he might not be the genuine article.
Adam has been befriended by Peaches
the miniature donkey
Cannot reproduce
The crossbreed of the zebra and donkey is possible because the two creatures are so closely related and are both part of the
equine genus.
But the zeedonks themselves cannot reproduce as they are born sterile.
Adam's new owners think he is only the second zeedonk in the country - the other is at
Colchester Zoo in Essex.
He was brought to Groombridge Gardens on Saturday and can be seen by visitors when the gates
re-open for the summer season on Tuesday.
Kind but stubborn
He lives in the centre's Enchanted Forest area and has already made a friend in the shape of
Peaches the miniature donkey.
The tourist attraction's director Roly Rickcord said: "He has got a kind eye, but a rather stubborn
streak you would expect to find in a mule.
Zeedonks can live for up to
30 years
"But he has got a friend in Peaches who we think brings out the best in him."
Zeedonks can live for up to 30 years - so with Adam being only three years old he stands to be around for a few years to
come.
Scientists produce first cross between camel and
llama
January 20, 1998
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- It's been a bumpy ride, but Rama the Cama -- the offspring of a
camel and its Andean cousin, the llama -- has brought together what 30 million years of evolution and
continental drift rent asunder.
Scientists in the Emirates said Tuesday that it took two years to perfect the artificial insemination
technique necessary to breed Rama's llama mom, a petite 165 pounds, with his overwhelming dad, who
weighs in at 990 pounds.
Dr. Lulu Skidmore with Rama,
who was born last week at the
Camel Reproduction Center in
Dubai
The male animal was born last Wednesday, said Dr. Lulu Skidmore, a specialist in camel reproduction. It weighed 12 pounds at birth.
"We hope it will have the best qualities of both animals," said Skidmore, technical director of the Camel Reproduction Center in Dubai. "In size,
it's somewhere between a camel and a llama."
The newborn has the short ears and long tail of a camel, but the cloven hooves of a llama, distinct from the single footpad of the camel. He was
born, too, without his father's hump.
For now, he is being bottle-fed on camel's milk. "If we can combine the best qualities of both animals, we
can have a super animal," said Skidmore, a British citizen.
She said the cama should have the prized fleece of the llama, native to the South American Andes, but
because of its larger size it should give more wool.
"In temperament it should also be calmer than a camel, and therefore better suited as a track animal,"
According to Skidmore, Rama
should be more mildmannered than his camel
ancestors
Skidmore said.
The camel and the llama descend from a species that lived about 30 million years ago.
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