A caged Siberia tiger has surprised the staff at Primorsky Safari Park, near Vladivostok, Russia, after befriending a goat that had been offered to him as live food. That was months ago, and even though everyone thought the friendship wouldn’t last long, the two are still inseparable.
Up until late November 2015, 3-year-old Amur, one of the last remaining Siberian tigers, had never shown any sign of compassion for the live food, caretakers at Primorsky Safari Park offered him twice a week. He would usually pounce on scared rabbits and goats and kill them with a swift stroke of his paw. But something was different about the goat that was thrown into his enclosure last November. Apparently, no one had taught the goat to be afraid of tigers, so he didn’t just up and run at the sight of Amur. He just stood his ground, which confused the giant feline, who didn’t attack it as he normally did other live prey.
“The tiger was confused and gave up,” explained Dmitry Mezentsev, head of the park. “It happened once before, another goat pushed back and the tiger decided not to eat him, but once he showed weakness—that was it—his predator killed him. The situation now is different and the animals are great friends.”
The goat, named Timur, after the great Mongolian warrior Timur Lenk, started getting close to his new roommate, and Amur didn’t seem to mind too much. To the surprise of everyone at the zoo, they became close friends, walking together, and even playing games of hide-and-seek. “During the day, Amur and Timur walk together like a pair of good friends,” one caretaker said “Timur takes Amur for an alpha male, and follows him everywhere. Timur’s fearlessness and caution have led to such a paradoxical result.”
The unusual relationship had sparked all kinds of reactions, both from animal experts and simple zoo visitors. Vladimir Krever of WWF-Russia, a biodiversity coordinator, thought the friendship would not last very long. “The friendship between the tiger and a goat will be short-lived,” he said, just one week after the encounter took place. “It will last only until the tiger gets hungry.”
Visitors concerned for the goat’s safety petition the zoo to separate the two animals. “Free the Goat!” many posted on its official website. “My mother is 78 and worries a lot,” wrote another concerned animal lover. “She asked me to write that the goat deserves life!”
But the two animals convinced everyone that they are very committed to their unique friendship. It’s now been over a month and a half since they met and they are closer than ever. They play games all day, butt heads like goats, and even share the water.
Timur has taken such a liking to his new best friend that he sometimes refuses to leave his side even to eat. One evening, when Amur had to be moved into a separate enclosure, he refused to to be moved from his new home, preferring instead to sleep there until the tiger returned. “Timur didn’t leave his place in the tiger’s den, even to eat. Only in the morning, when the tiger came out, did he feed himself,” Mr. Mezentsev recalls. “Such a paradox—he feels safe by the tiger’s side and feels stressful when he sees people. ”
And Amur takes his role of protector very seriously. According to Primorsky Safari Park officials, the tiger once “hissed at an employee who feeds the tigers, as if to tell him, ‘Hey, don’t you ever approach my friend.’ Before that, he never showed any aggression towards staff.”
The brave goat apparently becomes nervous whenever he loses sight of Amur and starts looking for him around the enclosure. The tiger also doesn’t go about his business alone, as he used to, and instead always waits for his friend to follow him. This new relationship seems to have had a positive effect on Amur’s nerves. Before, he would roar in frustration day and night, but now appears calm and relaxed.
Primorsky Safari Park has decided not to separate Timur and Amur. “The other goats are cowardly and their destiny is to be eaten, but Timur has earned the right to live with a tiger, and he will stay there because of that. We are not afraid for the goat’s life—if Amur wanted to eat him, he would have done it long ago,” Dmitry Mezentsev said.
Instead the park plans to install 16 cameras and turn this unlikely friendship into a reality show. This will also allow those concerned for Timur’s life see for themselves that his is not in any danger and that he actually enjoys living to a full-grown Siberian tiger.