SAN DIEGO - A small child stood in front of one of six Sumatran tigers Wednesday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s new exhibit, the Tull Family Tiger Trail.
A glass pane is all that separated the little boy from a 200-pound, meat-eating predator. He touched the glass and the tiger rubbed back and forth against it from the other side.
Anna Prigge has worked at the Zoo Safari Park for almost four years. She was thrilled about the park addition, which will debut to the public on Saturday.
According to Prigge, until now, the tigers were quite literally lurking in the shadows, not what you want at a zoo.
"I’ve only seen a tiger’s tail," she said. "Because the enclosure was so large, the grass was overgrown, and it was just really hard to see a tiger."
"I just think it’s amazing. It’s incredible, you can see the tigers right up close, they’re right there.”
The Zoo Safari Park is one of the county’s biggest tourist attractions. The $20 million exhibit is one of its biggest projects in years. The five-acre habitat has water features for the cats to take a dip and three separate yards.
They don’t like to be in packs, so zoo officials say it’s more natural and better for breeding. That’s key, with only about 400 of these cats left in the world.
“They follow you,” Prigge said. “They walk along the fence line and follow you, and they stare right at you. It’s a little intimidating, but it’s so exciting.”
The little boy wasn’t scared at all. He may have wanted pet the tiger, and the tiger may have wanted a snack, but both seemed fascinated.
The exhibit opens on Saturday. You can check out the Tiger cam online.