Tigers: Kuzi and Yuri

Kuzi and Yuri Will Soon Join John Ball Zoo
Photo, Rebecca Warren

A new sound is coming to John Ball Zoo in early June...the sound of roaring tigers.

The Crawford Tigers of the Realm exhibit is bringing tigers back to John Ball Zoo. The brand new exhibit will mirror the natural habitat of Amur tigers, complete with a flourishing forest.

"This exhibit is very different from most zoo animal habitats," Krys Bylund, Marketing Director for John Ball Zoo, said. "It will be exciting to see the animals interact with their surroundings."

Amur tigers are the biggest cats in the world and live in parts of the Amur River basin in the Russian Far East. Interestingly, the latitude is similar to Northern Michigan. Males can reach 11 feet long and weigh 600 pounds. More than any other cats, Amur tigers rely on their sense of sight, which is six times better than a humans eyesight.

Tigers of the Realm will open with three tigers. Three-year-old brothers Yuri and Kuza each weigh 460 lbs. and arrive from Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY. Nika, an eight-year-old female, comes to John Ball Zoo from Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. The tigers will arrive in Grand Rapids sometime in May and spend a couple of weeks in quarantine before entering their new home.

The nearly 24,000 square foot exhibit will feature two viewable habitats, a picnic and children's play area, tiger trails and a path which will allow zoo visitors to walk the trail with the tigers as they move from one habitat to another.

Kuzi and Yuri Enjoying Some Snow

Kuzi and Yuri Enjoying Some Snow
Photo, Tina Cox

There are only about 500 Amur tigers remaining in the wild. A hunting ban in the 1930s helped increase the tiger population, but created a genetic bottleneck and thereby low genetic variation in wild tigers. Thanks to breeding programs in zoos there is a much higher degree of genetic variation and hence a healthier population. A healthy zoo population can help provide genetic diversity in the wild tiger population.

"It's been several years since John Ball Zoo has had the privilege of exhibiting these majestic cats," Bylund said. "They are so rare in the wild, zoos might be the last place we can enjoy them!"

Be sure to check out the impressive new addition to John Ball Zoo when it opens. The tigers are looking forward to seeing you!