The UK’s largest collection of Royal Bengal tigers have been introduced to their brand new home at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in Friskney.
Eleven tigers took their first steps on Friday into their three acre, state-of-the-art enclosure, complete with Bengal temple, spectacular climbing frames, lake, leisure and play areas.
Park owner, Steve Nichols, said: “My stomach was like a washing machine as they took their first steps in the enclosure but it went really well, even better than we had hoped. It was very emotional and seeing them walking on the grass in the enclosure for the first time and taking to their environment, I had a lump in my throat.
“We are still introducing them to their new environment so for now there will just be three to four tigers in the open space at a time.”
Bengal tigers are one of the most endangered animals in the world with an estimated 1,500 left in existence today, so the work that Steve is doing in providing a haven for the tigers has attracted widespread attention from both local and national media.
Taken in from all parts of the UK, the tigers have specific needs and require special attention. Steve has spent the past months working closely with the tigers, even moving his office into their enclosure so that he can observe them up close.
He said: “They are like my family. I’ve got to know them as individuals and their characters and you can see if they are in a bit of a mood or are happy.
“I was nervous about them adapting to their new space and we had trained staff standing by, but they have relaxed into their environment well.”
The huge new enclosure also incorporates research and medical buildings and training compounds, as well as unique tiger apartments, a visitor centre and underfloor heating for the animals. The park works closely with vets and researchers from Lincoln University to study the tigers.
Visitors will be able to see the tigers in their new enclosure at the grand opening this Easter weekend.