Lions and Tigers and Ligers????

I wandered around the grounds At King Richard’s Faire to get familiar with the layout working my way back toward the Tournament Field. Right next to the field was the Tiger Stage. I love this show. They have had it every year that I’ve been to King Richard’s Faire and to me it is the highlight. I love the animals.

Since it was the first show of the day it wasn’t too crowded yet and I was able to get a seat fairly close to the stage. I’ve almost always been in the back before  so this was a treat.

The show is put on by a conservation group. They have been featured on all sorts of shows and provide animals for the movies like Dr. Doolittle and Ace Ventura to name just a couple of fairly well known movies. I’ve seen documentaries  about them on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

This year’s show really pushed the conservation angle more than it has in the past. Although I thought it bordered on being “preachy” I happen to agree with what they had to say.

The name of the organization is T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered  and Rare Species.). They have a web page and they offer opportunities to get up close and personal with their animals at their facility in Myrtle Beach. I had never heard of this being allowed any place except Tiger Island in Australia so to have a place in the US is awesome!

The show started with film clips on a big screen TV which was very interesting and enjoyable. It centered on a heartwarming story about a 6-year-old orangutan and an old hound dog named Roscoe.

Then out came the parade of cats. Bengal tigers, Royal White Tigers, Snowy White Tigers and a couple of very rare tigers that (shame on me) I forget what they are called.

 You can see the difference in their markings and coat color.

They had a lively little cat that I think was some kind of rare lynx.

It was easy to see why small children are banned from the first 3 rows.

This little cat was really alert and fascinated by any movement from the audience.

Finally the last big cat was introduced.

It was Hercules a world record size cat. He is a Liger. A liger is a hybrid between a Lion and a Tiger. The father is a Lion and the mother a Tiger. If it was the other way around he would have been much smaller and called a tigon. Ligers, unlike many hybrids, are not sterile so Hercules could father a bunch of little ligers.

He is really huge. 900 pounds and eleven feet tall. All the cats have their claws and teeth so must be treated with utmost respect. One swipe with a paw and those handlers would be toast. These are wild animals.

All of these cats  are raised with humans from birth (they are also are well fed) so they have no need to have a human snack, still they have the instincts of a predator so again, small children are not allowed in the front rows where a child’s  quick actions could trigger an attack. You will also see that they are being given a bottle when they are on stage. That is milk and the animals consider it a treat. It keeps their attention centered on the trainers.

The show was narrated by none other than my friend the Falconer.

To raise money for their organization, they had books, stuffed animals and DVD’s for sale after the show. As I was considering the DVD they told me about another option, one I couldn’t refuse. Around to the side of the stage they were bringing out the hawk I’d seen earlier and a European Eagle Owl.

For a fee you could have your picture taken with one of the birds.

It was a hard choice but I decided on the hawk. The Falconer told me it is a Harris’s Hawk. He said it is the only hawk that actually enjoys human company.

As I held out my forearm for the hawk to step on she let out a loud sound similar to a caw. Then hopped on my arm. It was almost like she was saying hello. This was definitely the high point of the day for me. After the picture I was allowed to pet her and she calmly accepted my gentle strokes before the falconer took her back to her post.

I missed most of the Challenge of the Champions that was going on at the Tournament Field but I really didn’t care. This opportunity was well worth it.

Tomorrow’s post will be a little break from King Richard’s Faire but I’ll have the rest of that experience for you next week.

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