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How to feed a tiger at Shepreth Wildlife Park
Chris Osborne
BBC Cambridgeshire

Shepreth Wildlife Park tiger
Amba and Rana are fed three times a week

Shepreth Wildlife Park knows a few things about looking after tigers.

After all they have been recognised by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) for their efforts in tiger conservation.

Their yearly Tiger Day helped them scoop the charity's best marketing project award.

But how do you look after a tiger? I fearlessly joined the team at Shepreth to help prepare a spot of lunch for some hungry big cats.

There's no mucking around when it comes to tiger cuisine.

Animal manager Rebecca Willers shows me around their meat storage room. There's a freezer with horse meat in, another with meat that needs to be incinerated and another with mice, rats and chicks for the birds of prey.

It's gruesome, to say the least.

'Bloodsicles'

Rebecca hands me a pair of rubber gloves. I have a feeling it's about to get even more gruesome.

"We're going to be putting our hands into big tubs of blood," she tells me. "And I don't want you passing out on me."

I make no guarantees.

The meat, which comes from horses that have died from natural causes, has to be weighed out to feed two tigers, two lynxes, two pumas and two wolves.

It's the tigers who require the biggest portions. I start helping by measuring out 3kg for Amba, the female, and 4kg for male tiger Rana.

The whole process is quite bloody. But sometimes even the red stuff doesn't go to waste.

"In the summer we actually freeze the blood and make bloodsicles," says Rebecca.

After emptying two large buckets of meat, dinner is ready for all of the animals and the meat room is a bit of a mess.

"We'll come back and clean the meat room later," Rebecca tells me. She'll be lucky, I plan on being out of there by that point.

Dangerous animals

Before any cleaning up is done we need to satisfy some hungry tigers. In case you were worried for my safety, I'm not going into the enclosure itself.

Amba the tiger swimming at Shepreth Wildlife Park
Shepreth Wildlife Park has raised over 10,000 for charity

The enclosure has two separate buildings where each tiger can devour their dinner in peace.

We enter one of them, past a sign which says: "these are dangerous animals". Rebecca and fellow keeper Grace Dickinson take me through the process.

"We have a routine to make sure that they don't fight over the food," explains Rebecca.

"Amba knows that this is her house so when Grace opens the door she'll be waiting to come in. Meanwhile I'll take Rana away from the area."

Rebecca disappears to take on the not-so-enviable task of distracting a male tiger while Grace and I winch up a series of shutters to let Amba get her teeth into the treat we've left for her.

We do the same all over again but this time for Rana and then sit back and watch the ease with which the beasts tuck into their meals.

Shepreth Wildlife Park is open throughout the winter months, at a time when the animals need as much support as they can get. There are special deals, Christmas fun and plenty to see and do. Go to the zoo's website to find out more details.




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