Easy tiger...town bids to breed rare beast

ONE of Doncaster's best-known visitor attractions is set to help save an endangered species of tiger after it made a pledge to breed the big cats.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Branton is joining a Europe-wide campaign to preserve the endangered Siberian Tiger - a species which is critically endangered.

It will take delivery of two pairs of the animals, described as the largest big cats in the world, later this year.

They are expected to arrive in the spring.

Work is now starting on accommodation for the tigers, which will be brought to Doncaster from zoos across Europe.

It is believed there are fewer than 450 of the species still surviving in the world.

Directors at the walkthrough safari park have been working with the stud bookkeeper for the Amur (Siberian) Tiger European Breeding Programme to identify the four individuals which could come to Doncaster.

Tigers in the breeding programme are selected for their suitability and genetic diversity.

Park boss Cheryl Williams said: "They are definitely coming, but we don't know where they will be coming from yet.

"They will be from another zoo which is part of the European breeding programme. This is part of a conservation programme.

"We are hoping they will be a compatible pair, and that in the future they will be able to breed.

"We are now in the process of creating a reserve for them. We haven't got a target date for completion yet.

"Tigers are among the most endangered of animals."

She said they planned to work closely with tiger conservationists in a bid to help tigers in the wild, raising awareness and funds to support the endangered animals.

The first pair of tigers will move into the new reserve in spring, where they will spend a few months getting used to their new surroundings and each other before the second pair arrives. The tigers will live as pairs.

Experts behind the breeding programme have a full genetic history for all of the animals, and they are paired off in a way which will prevent in-breeding.

The park, which receives visits from schools from all over South Yorkshire as well as tourists from around the country, last hit the headlines when it launched a rescue bid to save a pride of Romanian lions in a zoo in Bucharest.

They were threatened with death because of problems keeping them in Romania.

The lions are now the major attraction at the site, since arriving in Doncaster in February 2010.

Ms Williams said the arrival of the tigers was in very different circumstances to the arrival of the lions, which were brought to Doncaster as a rescue, rather than for conservation reasons.

The park has also recently taken delivery of its first flamingoes.