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Tigers arrive at new home

Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

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They didn't have names as of last week, but two tiger cubs were already starting to fit in at Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

The two arrived at the park after being transported up from the Phoenix area.

They had been kept in an apartment and a backyard in Gilbert and Phoenix after a man sold them after bringing them from Texas, said Dean Harrison, one of the park's owners.

At some point, the tigers were also in Wisconsin, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The tigers were posted on Facebook late last year, and Arizona Game and Fish was alerted and tracked them down.

Selling the tigers in Arizona is illegal, Harrison said, but it's not a felony and the man who sold them is already out of the area, which will prevent extradition.

Around 7 months old, the tigers are around 3 months older than what a vet listed on their birth certificates, something Harrison attributes to veterinarians who understandably aren't too familiar with tigers.

One is white, the other is the more typical orange. The two are brothers, Harrison said.

"Once they saw each other again, they acted like they had known each other all their lives," Harrison said. "It was obvious they were brothers, they were playful with each other."

Instead of being in an apartment or a backyard, the two cats now have some room to play and roam around at the wildlife park in Camp Verde.

They join around 16 other tigers that already live at the park, although they were still kept separated from the rest of the population as of last week.

They will eventually be put around adults, Harrison said, because as any children, they will need some adult supervision to keep them in check and learn how to behave.

"They'd just run wild," Harrison said.

While they are wild animals, Harrison said the new tigers at the park will eventually be introduced into the park's Tiger Splash event, where trained professionals interact with the animals in a swimming pool in front of a crowd, playing and getting some exercise.

Staff at the park were already working on getting the tiger siblings some durable toys to play with. They are definitely in need of some exercise and room to act like normal tigers.

Harrison said they are a bit fatter than tigers should be and they are in need of some vitamins and nutrients.

"They look like sausages with little feet," Harrison said. "They should look sleek. They were grossly overfed."

The nutrients will help bring out the sheen in their coats, Harrison said, which are looking a bit dull and matted because of their previous living conditions.

The tigers were held by an agency that could responsibly handle tigers until they could be transported to Camp Verde.

Natalie Benson, an employee at Out of Africa, said the tigers will be much better off there.

The park employs people who are trained to handle wild predators in captivity. Benson was trained at a dedicated facility in Washington state, for example.

The tigers seemed to be enjoying their new surroundings almost as much as they were enjoying wrestling with each other.

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Original Publication Date: January 15, 2014

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