THERE’S a new cat in town – a Siberian tiger to be precise – and its presence at Nelson Mandela Bay’s Seaview Lion Park has taken the city’s population of the breed to 20% of the national total.
The park welcomed its 10th Siberian tiger yesterday morning.
Bella arrived from the Cradle of Humankind in Mpumalanga after a 13- hour drive to the Bloemfontein meeting point, where she was received in exchange for another tiger.
Weighing in at a hefty 290kg and looking every bit like her Jungle Book relative, Shere Khan, Bella will form part of a breeding programme run by the park.
In a bid to save the species from extinction, the park aims to increase the species gene pool and help protect the 3200 tigers that remain globally after a 97% population drop over the last century.
Earlier yesterday, Bella was released from an enclosed hut where she recuperated after travelling before being released into her wider enclosure, where she will spend time acclimatising.
Strutting around her new home showcasing her rusty red, black and beige coat, the smart cat wasted no time sniffing out her boundaries and headed straight for the securely locked gate.
Once four-year-old Bella has settled into her new environment, she will be introduced to another tiger at the park, 10-year-old Luca, to mate.
Once her litter is born, the female is left to rear her young on her own. Lion park general manager Ashley Gombert jokingly referred to male tigers as "the ultimate players”.
Typically found along the borders of Russia and China, Siberian tigers are the largest of the cat species and are listed as one of the top 10 endangered species in the world.