Easy tiger - I like to be wooed

Tigers Vladimir and Sayan meet for the first time at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, in Branton, Doncaster.
Tigers Vladimir and Sayan meet for the first time at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, in Branton, Doncaster.
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Just like any couple getting close for the first time, they were a little nervous and wary of each other.

And when he went a little bit too far on the first date, she gave him a quick slap to cool his ardour.

But the early signs are that Siberian tigers Vladimir and Sayan are going to get on all right at the Land of the Tigers reserve at Branton.

Whether they get to the stage of becoming more intimate and having little ones at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park remains to be seen.

The two endangered tigers were introduced to each other yesterday just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Two-year-old Vladimir and Sayan, a year older, have already spent eight months living side by side in separate large enclosures at the park off Warning Tongue Lane.

Finally, in a nailbiting operation – risking injury or even death as no-one knew for sure what their reaction would be – the critically endangered amur tigers were allowed together.

Staff kept a distance at first so as not to distract them – but were relieved when they showed signs that they were going to accept each other’s company.

They did not know what the reaction would be as tigers are naturally solitary.

Carnivores keeper Amy Sleight, who has been working with the tigers since they arrived, opened the slide and let Vlad out of the house and into Sayan’s woodland reserve.

“My heart was just pounding. I was so nervous,” she said.

“Vlad was very relaxed and just strolled out – then he went over the hill and out of my sight as he went towards Sayan. I was just waiting, wondering what was happening.”

Vlad and Sayan did not approach each other immediately – staying apart and looking at each other curiously.

Then Vlad plucked up the courage to approach Sayan, politely greeting her. The tigers were quietly observed during the day and they seemed relaxed in each other’s company.

But the female tiger was not so welcoming when he later attempted to playfully jump on her during a rest – resulting in Vlad receiving a cuff round the ear from the tigress!

Director of YWP Cheryl Williams said: “We are really pleased that Vlad and Sayan have hit it off so well – so far!

“Everyone was extremely nervous about the introduction as you never quite know what will happen. It really is a potentially dangerous situation.

“It all bodes well for a happy Valentine’s Day!”

The pair were brought separately to the award-winning park last year as part of the Amur Tiger Breeding Programme and were kept separate in the spectacular Land of The Tigers – one of the largest and most innovative tiger enclosures in Europe – with two pools, a waterfall and a 150m walkway for visitors.

But when in the tiger house they were able to see and contact each through the mesh.

The tigers were also frequently rotated between reserves to ensure they knew each other’s territories and smells.

The decision to introduce them was taken when they were both relaxed in each other’s company in the house. YWP Animals Director John Minion said: “It went as well as we dared hope.

“We were so nervous when he first went out.

“But it is great to see the two together and a huge relief to everyone.”

YWP is working with the studbook keeper for Amur Tiger European Breeding Programme, which aims to save the tiger from extinction because only about 400 are left in the wild.