Genetic engineering changes big cats

At first glance you may mistake Hercules and his baby brother Aries as a Lion, or even a Tiger, but in fact they are both. The Ligers are a cross between a male Lion and a female Tigress. With the head structure of a Lion yet the faint stripes and shorter legs of a Tiger.

The Liger grows at an explosive rate, piling on about 1 pound per day, so baby Aries by the time he reaches his first birthday should weigh more than 26 stone. By three he could be more than 50 stone, and given a few more years may challenge his bigger brother for title of the worlds biggest hybrid cat.

Hercules, at 6ft tall to the tips of his ears, has his very own page in the Guinness World Record book.

The siblings, both more playful than pure lions, were born at Myrtle Beach Safari wildlife reserve in South Carolina.

The project is run by The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.).

Its director, Dr Bhagavan Antle, said: ‘Aries could be just as big as Hercules and it is entirely possible he could be bigger.

“Generally lions and tigers don’t reproduce and the male lion breeding with a tiger has only happened three times.”

“The great thing about ligers is they have this extreme social ability they get from their lion fathers. They enjoy the social life and enjoy touching and interactive play.”
Trainer Moksha Bybee, 30, added: “The liger’s aggression is tempered by the mother tiger which gives them a greater social capacity. They love rolling against you and wanting to touch and play.” Hercules, like most tigers, enjoys swimming, a feat almost unheard of among lions which fear the water.

The alternative to a Liger, when it is a male Tiger and a female Lioness becomes a Tigon. The Tigon’s are much smaller than Ligers.

Normally, it is virtually impossible for the two species to mate in the wild as lions are mostly found in Africa and most tigers on the Asian continent. The two tribes are also extremely territorial.

Source: The Mail on Sunday, November 7th 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment