Amur tigers receive daily treats for tricks


Going home with a smile on his face is part of what Ryan Ball loves about being a zookeeper at the Calgary Zoo, especially when he gets to work with the Amur tigers.

Ball gets the chance to work with many of the animals throughout the zoo but says his favourites are most often the ones he works with on a daily basis. Every day at 11:30 a.m. the Calgary Zoo shows the public tiger training in the Tiger Amphitheatre where trainers like Ball wear a microphone and instruct the tigers to run-through various movements. This gives trainers a chance to communicate with the endangered tigers, practice behaviours and check their health.

Ball also adds that people might not know that Amur tigers, a species that can be most commonly found in Eastern Russia, are the largest cats in the world, even larger than the Sabre-Toothed tigers of prehistoric times. This makes it especially easy for them to climb high up –as Ball demonstrates during the show. At a length of 10 – 12 ft., these cats can stretch up to the wire placed near the tops of trees in their exhibit. The training session only takes place for roughly 15 minutes so people are encouraged to grab seats early to enjoy the magnificent display of tiger and trainer interaction.

“It’s important to keep up on their mental behaviour. This training is more than just doing tricks with them,” says Ball. “They’re born in captivity all their life so freedom is limited. I never say no to what they do — there’s no punishment involved. This makes them more likely to walk and pounce around.”

Ball explains that most people don’t think about the fact that tiger training is the only form of communication zookeepers have with these giant cats, which makes these daily routines even more important.

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The editor responsible for this story is Stefan Strangman, who can be reached at 

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