A sad farewell!

Last month we were devastated to hear the sad news that Vladimir, the male Siberian Tiger at Dartmoor Zoological Park had sadly died. Vladimir was the last remaining Tiger actually born at DZP who I had been fortunate enough to have seen growing up from a cub.

Dartmoor Zoological Park in Sparkwell Devon is owned by Benjamin Mee, who has been running the zoo for the last 10 years and is doing remarkable work for research, conservation and education. In fact the film ‘We Bought A Zoo’ starring Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansen was based on the true story around the taking over of DZP by Benjamin.
Sadly the number of Tigers has decreased over the last 100 years from hundreds of thousands to between 3000 & 5000. Of these it is estimated that only 400 to 500 are living in the wild which is why it so vitally important to carry on the conservation work to make sure the Tiger lives on!

Siberian tigers are the largest of their species and yes it is true, their skin is also striped under their fur! No two Tigers will have the same stripes, just like human fingerprints.

We were so lucky to get so close to Vlad on our last visit while the keepers cleaned his enclosure…what a magnificent animal. Vladimir, like his late sisters Blotch and Stripe were amazing animals and I was delighted to have seen all three of them turning from cubs into magnificent creatures. In the early days before their enclosure was altered and the new fencing added, I was sat next to the fence stroking Vlad’s side through the meshing when he suddenly got to his feet, turned and then ‘squirted’ me. This is a warning sign from Tigers and marks their territory and is a reminder that he had wild instincts still inside his heart, but an experience that has stayed with me forever. Not many people can say they have been squirted by a Tiger!.

Vladimir was born in 2001 and along with his late sisters marks the end of a truly magnificent era for the three wonderful Tigers I came to admire and love, from cubs to fully grown majestic adults. I have been visiting DZP every year sometimes several times a year since they were born and feel privileged to have known them, got so close to them and to enjoy the wonderful moments they have given me.

Vladimir along with his sisters Stripe and Blotch made such a big impact in our lives…. They will be greatly missed but never forgotten. They really have left a paw print on my heart.

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