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Tiger cub visits Kiwanis meeting

By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
Rockwell’s Tiger World made a special visit to Friday’s Salisbury Kiwanis meeting, including a 15-week-old white Bengal tiger cub, Athena.
President and founder of Tiger World, Lea Jaunakais, gave a detailed presentation on Tiger World, its operations and programs, and the importance of tiger preservation.
Jaunakais has worked with big cats for 15 years, and Tiger World recently obtained its nonprofit status.
“My love for tigers started when I was about three years old,” said Jaunakais, whose love started when National Geographic began their “Save the Tigers” program.
“I’m now 33 years old and there are multiple subspecies of tigers that are extinct.”
The No. 1 killer of tigers in the wild is poaching, and only around 3,000 tigers left in the wild throughout the world. The number one use for tigers is Chinese medicine.
“Tigers are worth ten times more dead than when they are alive,” said Jaunakais. “We get them for free.”
Tiger World receives its tigers and other exotic animals from zoo closings or downsizings. In 2009 alone, Tiger World has taken in 11 large cats, including a leopard missing an eye and a three legged leopard.
“It’s really great we’re able to take these animals in and provide them homes,” said Jaunakais.
Tiger World has had more than 10,350 school children visit in 2009, where they go on guided educational tours.
Tiger World also participates in research programs and behavioral studies.
“We are currently working with Texas A&M University on their genetic modification program for the Liger,” said Jaunakais, and has a Liger at Tiger World.
The white Bengal cub brought to the Kiwanis meeting was Athena, who is only 15 weeks old.
Athena’s mother, Brandy, is an orange Bengal tiger with white genes, and Athena’s father, Zeus, is a white Bengal. Athena also has a brother, Ares, who is an orange Bengal.
Jaunakais stressed the importance of preservation, but said that soon there will be no tigers left in the wild, only the ones that are in captivity.
“China just made it legal to trade tiger parts,” said Jaunakais, noting that trading tiger parts is illegal in every other country in the world. Poachers caught in India are beheaded.
Jaunakais closed with some fun facts about tigers.
“Tigers are ten times stronger than man, are the largest cat in the world, their noses have over 19 million nerve endings, they sleep 16 hours a day, and they love water,” she said. “We work with our animals based on our relationships, building respectful relationships. Tigers are very intelligent and not aggressive.”

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