"THE OAKLAND ZOO WELCOMED TWO NEW TIGERS, LOLA AND MIA, ON JUNE 10TH. UPON ARRIVAL, THE TIGERS WERE IMMEDIATELY TAKEN TO THE VET FOR TREATMENT. THE ZOO’S FOUR LONG-TERM RESIDENT TIGERS HAD RECENTLY DIED AND NOW THEY HAVE TWO NEW TIGERS TO TAKE CARE OF." --ZARA QUITER, SIXTH GRADE
Lola and Mia were rescued from a closed roadside attraction in Oklahoma, which had connections with Tiger King, a show on Netflix in which big cats were being mistreated. The circumstances in which Lola and Mia lived were not healthy. The cages were much too small, and they were not appropriately fed.
In addition, the Oakland Zoo and the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge also rescued a elderly lion who is being cared for at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, as well as a tiger, who was moved to the Lions, Tigers, and Bears Sanctuary.
Before the exciting rescue from the Oklahoma Zoo, Oakland’s tiger enclosure housed four other tigers. In 2011, Milou, Molly, Grace, and Ginger were rescued from a private tiger petting industry in Texas. Like most of these horrible tiger petting sites, once the tigers were too big to handle, and make a profit from, the tigers experienced even more neglect. After that, the tigers were rescued by the US Department of Agriculture, but like most animals that were formerly private-owned, they were ready to euthanize them. That’s when Oakland Zoo offered to take all four tigers and give them a new home at the Oakland Zoo.
Ginger died in August 2021 and Grace in September of 2021, and Milou and Molly were euthanized in November 2021. At around 16, the elderly tigers were slowly losing their health, presumably because of their poor treatment from past owners.
Teen volunteer at the Oakland Zoo, Mina Friedbrikson, agreed with their reasoning to euthanize the last two tigers. She said, “It sounded like they really just wanted to do what’s best for the tigers. So I support their decision. I think that they really care about their animals and they just wanted to make sure they weren’t prolonging when they were going to be suffering a lot.”
The half a year period of the empty enclosure at the Oakland Zoo was a sad time for many. Isadora Abell, an OSA sixth grader in Theater, said, “Some of the memories I have of looking at the tigers, from up high, or course, is when I was really young. I was just in awe of them. It’s really sad they got put down.”
While visiting the Oakland Zoo, Halayna Leftloves, a OSA sixth grader in Vocal Music, said that it was really disappointing that the tigers died.
AJ Kirk, a seventh grader in Theater, often goes to the Oakland Zoo. “When they died, I felt really sad, and I was disappointed because then I couldn’t see the tigers.It is always very sad when one of the animals you know dies, even if it’s not your animal.”
The new tigers have started to settle into their new home, and the zoo has started enhancing their daily lives. Staff member Madison Brandon, who works with the African Aviary, but has had time working with tigers before said, “I really like that we are able to give the tigers enrichment because their old facilities didn’t have any toys or things to play with. Just last week the zookeepers gave them pig poop and I got to watch them sniff it for the first time.” Pig poop is quite smelly, so the tigers, who were probably bored out of their minds in Oklahoma, are being introduced to new things, such as the pig poop.
The tiger habitat has been cleaned up, with new platforms for the tigers to play upon. There is currently a fence split in the middle of it. Lola and Mia are on either side because the zoo has to be careful about their introduction, just in case they might be violent towards each other. The tigers do come and approach the gate every now and then, and they do not seem hostile towards each other.
Adam Zuby, a staff member at the Oakland Zoo said that the tigers were being friendly to each other as well, “The extent of their interactions have been solely at the fence and things have been going well. Their care team have reported multiple moments of chuffing, which is an affiliative, or friendly, vocalization toward each other. There have not been any reports of aggression, but the care team will continue to be cautious.” The tigers also have been pacing, a side effect of living in such a small cage for such a long time.
The tiger habitat is a very special place at the zoo. Brandon, who was hired right after the old tigers were euthanized, said, “I know that when those tigers did pass away, that the plan for the enclosure was specifically to save it for tigers that needed to be rescued. So instead of immediately filling it up with tigers that could go in there, they very specifically saved the enclosure to wait until they could fill the space with tigers who need to get out of a really bad situation.”
Lola and Mia might be at a new home, but all their problems aren’t over. Lola, who is a liger, which means that she has a tiger for a mom, and a lion for a dad, has a facial infection, and eventually will need surgery for it. She also has a bowed leg, which is thought to be a side effect of her mixed-breed, which is why it is crazy that she was even born. Emily Trieu, a biology teacher at OSA, explained, “When chromosomes are split, it's hard to be put together.” This means that the chromosomes in a liger, like most hybrid animals, are split, so it is very hard to actually survive as a liger. The difference between Lola and Mia when it comes to physical attributes is not huge, but there still is some. Zuby said, “They have variance in their genetic expression which can be easily noted in their different sizes and stripe patterns. Lola is much larger and has intermixed spots and blotches, while Mia is smaller and has a classic stripe pattern.
Mia is also declawed on all of her paws, which is the equivalent of cutting off the first joint of a finger on a human hand. The Oakland Zoo put up a new sign on the tiger viewing platform. It encourages people to not declaw their house cats, and to instead cut their nails every now and then and to get scratching posts. Declawing cats is illegal in many cities in California, including Berkeley and San Francisco.
The new tigers have not shown fear of humans, and even appear friendly. Adam Zuby said, “There are plenty of photos and videos of the tigers on their backs, exposing their stomachs which is a positive, a potentially vulnerable position. They wouldn’t do this unless they felt safe.”
The tiger habitat is open right now, so you can see them. There are two entrances, the one closest to the main entrance of the Oakland Zoo is on Mia’s side and the other entrance is on Lola’s side.