Tag: tiger

Army of the Dead Has A Zombie Tiger, And He’s A True Cat

Army of the Dead, the long-awaited post-apocalyptic heist movie from director Zack Snyder, has a simple premise: Las Vegas has been overrun by zombies and cordoned off behind massive corrugated steel walls, becoming a kingdom for the undead who are ruled by a handful of intelligent and incredibly dangerous “alpha zombies.”

A Japanese businessman (Hiroyuki Sanada) approaches a famed zombie killer (Dave Bautista) and tells him he’s got $200 million in a vault inside one of the now-inaccessible casinos. If Bautista and his team can fight their way in and get the money, half of it is theirs to keep.

The catch? They have a little more than a day until the US government plans to drop a low-yield tactical nuke on the city to wipe out the zombie plague.

Bautista and his crew hire a coyote (French actress Nora Arnezeder) to get them inside the city, and as they make their way toward the Las Vegas strip, they hear a blood-curdling roar. A four-legged figure approaches, obscured by dust, smoke and the ruins of abandoned cars, until it climbs on top of one of the vehicles and we see it properly for the first time — it’s a pissed-off zombified white tiger!

“Valentine,” Arnezeder says, turning to her huddled companions. “One of Siegfried and Roy’s.”

The zombie tiger, she explains, patrols the outskirts of the zombie “kingdom,” making a light snack of anyone who ventures too close.

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“We’ll kill some zombies, grab the cash and play some slots. You know, make a day out of it!” Image credit Clay Enos/Netflix

Later in the movie there’s a scene in which the alpha zombie leader rallies all of his undead — including Valentine — and sends them en masse toward the hotel where the protagonists are trying to crack the safe and get at the piles of cash inside.

Snyder makes a great show of the endless zombie hordes thundering toward the hotel with Valentine among them, and it looks like the big cat is going to lead the charge until he stops, yawns and settles down on the hood of a car for a nap.

Is there anything more feline than that?

As it turns out, Snyder and his team were looking for a big cat expert to help them nail the tiger’s signature gait and physical tics as they created the CGI felid, and the consultant who agreed to provide them with feedback was none other than Big Cat Rescue’s Carole Baskin. As Variety notes, production on the movie began long before Baskin became a household name with the release of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary.

Although the inclusion of a zombie tiger was a fun surprise, my all-time favorite tiger from zombie fiction is The Walking Dead’s Shiva. She’s got a compelling backstory: The character Ezekiel was a zookeeper before the apocalypse and, realizing no one was tending to the animals as the world was collapsing, he risked his life to get back to the zoo and feed the trapped creatures.

When he got there, Shiva was so malnourished and hungry that her gratitude for Ezekiel’s intervention was obvious. Gambling that the powerful tigress — whom he’d taken care of for years — wasn’t going to hurt him, Ezekiel opened her enclosure to set her free. But rather than run off on her own, Shiva decided to stay with her human friend, and the two became inseparable as the world ended.

While Valentine was just another zombie, Shiva fought the undead, and she was badass. The show also earned praise from animal rights groups after opting for CGI instead of using a real tiger. The special effects team responsible for Shiva did such a fantastic job that viewers were convinced she was the real deal.

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Ezekiel, left, with the majestic Shiva. Credit: AMC/The Walking Dead

Finally, The US Is Poised To Outlaw Big Cat ‘Ownership’

Even though Tiger King, the tawdry Netflix documentary about a redneck and his “zoo” full of tigers, focused more on the eccentric people involved than the plight of the big cats in their “care,” it got people talking about the problem of captive tigers in the US.

In 2020, congress passed a rare bipartisan bill to ban all big cat ownership in the US. The bill stalled when the senate failed to vote on it before the end of the legislative session, but now it’s back — and the recent saga of a confused tiger wandering around Houston may finally provide the nudge for politicians to pass the badly-needed bill.

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After almost exterminating tigers, Chinese poachers have turned to South America, where they’re poaching jaguars at unprecedented rates to feed demand for big cat parts in the traditional Chinese medicine market. Jaguar poaching has increased 200-fold in the past five years to fuel Chinese demand for their body parts.

There are more tigers living in Texas and Florida backyards than there are in the wild, an ignominious fact that says volumes about humanity’s indifference to the plight of the Earth’s most powerful and iconic predators. Devastated by habitat destruction and poaching to feed the bottomless Chinese appetite for tiger parts used in traditional Chinese “medicine,” the worldwide wild tiger population is about 3,900, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

By contrast, there’s an estimated 7,000 tigers kept as “pets” in the US, with as many as 5,000 of them in Texas.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban the private ownership of tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cougars and cheetahs. It would also outlaw the practice of taking tiger cubs from their mothers so guests can hold them and take selfies with them, which has become an increasingly-popular and controversial feature of “roadside zoos” — unregulated, poorly run, unaccredited facilities — in the US.

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Cheetahs, already critically endangered due to habitat loss, are on the verge of extinction as they’ve become the exotic pet of choice among the wealthy of the UAE and Russia.

The Houston tiger, named India, is one of those unfortunate cubs. While the public freaked out and Houston residents huddled in their homes, hoping to record footage of the wandering tiger, an important fact was often left out of media reports: India is only eight months old. He’s essentially a baby, albeit a 175-pound one, and he had no idea what was happening to him, where he was, how to feed himself, or how to escape the endless sprawl of urban and suburban Texas.

Despite the fact that he was a confused-yet-playful cub, India could have easily been shot by authorities. Thankfully he survived his ordeal, and while his “owner,” Victor Cuevas, is sitting in jail on $300,000 bond, India has been relocated to a sanctuary in northern Texas, where he’ll be looked after and will get to live in the company of other tigers.

In the meantime, we all have an opportunity to lobby our respective senators and demand that they vote for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. You can fire off a letter to your senators and congressional representative in less than two minutes using the Animal Welfare Institute’s site — just punch in your address and the site will draft automated letters to all three, with fields to sign your name and to personalize the letters.

Tell them you support the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and you’ll take their vote into consideration the next time you head to the ballot box.

All images credit Wikimedia Commons.

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In the wild, tigers range more than 50 miles a day. Backyards, no matter how large, are not suitable environments for them.

 

Now There’s A Mail-In DNA Test For Cats

Ever wonder about your cat’s parentage, breed and potential health problems? A mail-in DNA test for cats promises to fill you in on the details.

Basepaws, a Los Angeles company, offers a kit not much different from the human mail-in DNA tests: You swab the inside of your cat’s mouth for a few seconds, secure it according to the provided instructions, and mail it to the company, which processes the results.

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The basepaws kit.

In four to six weeks you’re notified that your cat’s results are ready, and you’ll get a report with a breakdown of genetic identity, associated breeds and potential health issues to watch out for.

This presents a problem for me, of course. Buddy thinks he’s descended from a long line of legendary warrior felids. I took a regular Q-tip, made a big show of swabbing his cheek for his DNA, and told him I was mailing it away for analysis.

Then I cooked this up:

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Buddy’s fake results.

You’ll notice the results don’t come close to adding up to 100 percent. The company’s founder says that’s because the more people test their cats, the more accurate the results will be, with fewer unknowns as the overall database expands.

Each cat’s report is updated indefinitely as the company continues to test. Checking back over subsequent months and years will yield updated information on your cat, the company says.

All jokes aside, it would be interesting to find out more about the Budster’s background. All I know is that his mom was an indoor cat who wasn’t spayed. She went into heat, she got out, she came back and the rest is history.

Because he’s a big talker, I’ve always wondered if Bud might have a bit of Siamese or one of the other chattier breeds in him. His coat is pretty short, extremely soft and all grey/dark grey in a tabby pattern, except for a single white tuft on his chest.

Interestingly, most of his tabby stripes are unbroken, a trait usually seen in hybrid cats.

He’s comically incapable of certain things, but almost frighteningly intelligent in other respects, and he wears his emotions on his sleeve…er, paw? Maybe there really are secrets to unlock in his DNA.

Cat DNA analysis is in its infancy

On the downside, Basepaws DNA tests don’t come cheap — with two packages priced at $129 and $99 — and, as a review in Wired notes, cat ancestry reports are always going to be more vague than reports on human or dog DNA.

That’s because the practice of dog breeding is a lot older and more common than creating pedigree cat lines, and most cats are not a specific breed. Unlike dogs — whose roles range from hunting and shepherding to assisting the blind and pulling sleds — cats have always had one job, and occasionally two. Kill rodents and snuggle with their humans, cuddly killers that they are.

Historically humans haven’t felt a compelling need to interfere with cat procreation. The last century or so has been an exception, but breeds still represent a small minority of cats.

If you’ve had your cat’s DNA analyzed, we’d love to hear from you about your experience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to tell a certain Tiger-Manticore-Jaguar about his impressive felid lineage.

Buddy Caught Editing His Own Wiki Entry

NEW YORK — Buddy the Cat was temporarily banned from Wikipedia on Tuesday after he was caught editing his own Wiki entry, the site’s moderators confirmed.

The vandalism was spotted over the weekend, when an editor noticed the infamous tabby cat’s entry had been significantly altered. The original entry, moderators said, met Wikipedia’s standards for neutral language and facts attributed to authentic sources:

“Buddy the Cat (born February 2014) is a domestic shorthair house cat best known for a disastrous term as president of the Americats [1], several appearances on Modern Cat magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Ridiculous Cats [2], and as the leader of an alleged catnip smuggling ring responsible for importing more than 300 tons of catnip and silvervine annually, according to authorities. [3]”

The new version of the Wiki entry was immediately flagged due to its inclusion of unverified and unsourced claims:

“Buddy the Cat (born on the summer solstice of 2014 on the peak of Mount Olympos, Greece, during a meteor shower) is a purebred Buddinese tiger best known for a tremendously successful term as president of the Americats, a triumphant appearance on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential Cats, and as an international feline sex symbol whose rugged good looks and muscular physique have earned him the admiration of female cats from New York to Tokyo.

Already an icon and movie action star, Buddy was elected as leader of the free cats in a surge of unprecedented patriotism and enthusiasm in 2016, as his campaign slogan — Make Yums Delicious Again — resonated with cats from coast to coast who were tired of the same old kibble. To date he is the only Americat president who has made turkey and bacon rain down from the sky.”

Moderator u/Librarian28 affixed a warning to the entry before reversing the vandalism and restoring the original content to the Wiki entry.

Edit, 11/22/2020: Entry has been vandalized and does no longer meet Wikipedia standards. Update, 11/24: The vandalism has been reversed and the original content restored.

The fix was short-lived, however, and within a few hours the second entry had been restored, along with a new subsection detailing Buddy’s acting career and his exploits as a covert operative for the Feline Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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Buddy energizes the crowd by stage diving during a performance by his band,

Early life and education

After earning a degree in litter box etiquette and play time socializing from the University of SPCA’s Kitten Kindergarten Behavior School, Buddy earned his meowster’s degree from the FBI (Feline Bureau of Investigation) school of cat crime and worked ultra-secrete awesome clandestine missions for the bureau. During this time he was known only by the mysterious moniker “Grey Tiger” and was feared by felines the world over.

Buddy subsequently left the bureau to pursue a career as a Hong Kong action star, appearing in films such as The Way of the Claw and Enter the Tabby. In 2017, he earned international fame as Shiva, a tiger companion to the character Ezekiel on The Walking Dead. That summer he earned rave reviews for his performance in Cats, the long-running musical at New York City’s Winter Garden Theatre.”

Soon after the second set of edits to the Wikipedia page, moderators issued a two-week ban for the domestic shorthair cat, who had also been cited for vandalizing the Wiki entry for the Los Gatos and the cartel’s leader, Pawblo Escobar.

Johnny Clawchrane, Buddy’s attorney, denied that his client was behind the online vandalism.

“Ipso facto, my client remains innocent until proven guilty, and under the statutes of e pluribus unum a priori a la carte, he is entitled to an appeal post haste ad mausoleum, quid pro quo per se.”

Big Buddy Goes Face To Face With A Tiger

The big cats at the Bronx Zoo have had a rough 2020 too.

First the zoo was shut down — along with thousands of other gathering places — due to the novel Coronavirus.

Then a tiger at the zoo got sick and tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first positive test for an animal in North America and the first recorded instance of human-to-tiger transmission. Seven other big cats at the zoo caught the virus, including four tigers and three lions.

Thankfully they recovered and everything — or almost everything — looked normal when I visited this week.

One of the awesome things about the zoo’s Tiger Mountain is that it has a trio of viewing ports that provide a prime view of a small pond where the tigers drink, swim and nap.

This tiger lounged in the distance for a few minutes, then got up and gave us a show.

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At one point the tiger came right up to the glass and looked at me:

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Standing three feet from a tiger is an experience, glass or no:

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Not as terrifying as Buddy’s visage, of course, but still something to behold.

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The lions were less welcoming. They were clumped up in the shade of an oak tree, snoozing without so much as a tail flick for motion.

Next was a snow leopard. This guy clearly didn’t deal well with a lot of humans gawking at him, and I could only snap a few shots before he retreated back up a hill in his enclosure, where the angle and brush gave him a measure of cover from human eyes.

I also saw him spinning in a circle repeatedly, a sign of zoochosis. I’m not an animal behaviorist and I’m not qualified to judge the work of the Bronx Zoo’s keepers, who obviously care a great deal for their animals. It’s just a reminder that even the best zoos in the world — with entire teams dedicated to things like enrichment and enclosure design — struggle to keep animals healthy and happy in captivity.

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Even though the name of their species sounds like an Italian dessert and they’re often mistaken for baboons, Gelada are old-world monkeys native to the grasslands of Ethiopia.

Geladas are the only primate species that are grazers: Up to 90 percent of their diet consists of grass and grass seeds. They’re easily recognizable by the hourglass-shaped furless patches on their chests, and they’re the only monkeys to form “herds” instead of troops, with an individual herd’s size swelling to more than 1,000 at a time.

When Geladas aren’t eating they’re grooming each other. Allogrooming, or social grooming, doesn’t just help monkeys keep their fur neat and free of parasitic bugs — it’s also a way of maintaining social bonds and reducing tension.

When I visited, I saw a male Gelada grooming a female. Female “heart patches” are usually more pale than their male counterparts, except when they’re in heat. So it’s probable that this scene is a bit of foreplay during mating season:

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A female on the rocks nearby. The enclosure features a series of cliffs surrounding central grassland, closely mimicking the species’ native habitat:

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This bird got within feet of the path adjacent to its exhibit, and its kind seem to have free reign within the park, as I saw another one hanging out in a wooded area earlier.

I have no idea what kind of bird this is, but he was very vocal and insistent about something:

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A group of zebras. I think they were sleeping. These four didn’t move a muscle, and zebras are one of a handful of species who can sleep while standing upright.

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A brown bear enjoys the warm weather, which topped out at almost 80 degrees. Another bear was nearby, taking a dip in the pool.

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And finally, a friendly reminder to the zoo’s visitors: Wear your masks! The zoo enforces an always-on policy for masks, which I think is a reasonable precaution. While masks may not be strictly necessary while strolling down the wide visitor paths of the zoo, viewing spots at popular exhibits can get crowded, and some of them are partially-enclosed.

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