news tigers swimming

Tiger trainers join big cats for a swim

Tue Oct 21 2008 By ninemsn staff

Female big cat trainers have found a unique way to bond with their tigers — don a bikini
and join them for a swimming pool frolic.


Amazing pictures show staff at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, or TIGERS, taking a leisurely dip with the 90kg beasts.

The South Carolina wildlife centre has been showing off its new custom-made 450L pool, complete with a glass wall for public viewing.

While an average housecat may despise the thought of a cool dip, tigers are the most adept swimmers of all the big cats and even have webbing between their toes to assist in paddling.

Tiger cubs But it's not just for show — the tiger devotees are serious when they say the swimming exercises are an important part of the animals' training.

"At the institute we feel that swimming with the big cats gives them a closer bond between the animal and their human companions," the UK newspaper the Telegraph reported centre director Bhagavan Antle as saying. "

We found that in the water people and tigers were on a more equal footing when the tiger was swimming around on the top."

While they say the practice is perfectly safe, the park has introduced a rule that prohibits trainers entering the water with big cats more than one year old — although Mr Antle admits he has taken a dip with adult tigers, which can grow to 2.4m in length and weigh as much as 225kg. "

I personally have had full grown, 15-year-old adult tigers that I swam with," he said.

"But that is me and I wouldn't put my staff at the same risk."