Can I See Tigers In NJ?
I spend a lot of time in New Jersey, and when it comes to tigers, it might not be the most natural place to see them, but there are actually a few zoos close by that are family friendly and have good tiger attractions. In NJ, there is the Cape May Zoo. Also, there is the Philadelphia Zoo just a little ways over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Pennsylvania. Both have invested a good deal of money into improving the quality of life of their big cats and into making them more accessible to the people who have come to see them.
Cape May County Zoo
The big name down in the Cape May County Zoo is Rocky the Tiger. He is a large male Siberian Tiger who has spent his life in the care of the good zookeepers down along the Jersey Shore. The CMC Zoo is accredited by the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) and has meticulous regulations to make sure that Rocky is well cared for. He is a fan favorite and usually pretty playful. This makes it so much more fun for families, or anyone for that matter, to come and see him play with his giant cat toys or roll around in the grass. He is actually the tiger that I saw spray a group kids on a school trip who got a little too close to his fence. One minute they were laughing and yelling with excitement as he walked right by them. The next minute they were screaming and running because he turned his back and sprayed all over them through the fence. It must have sucked for them, but I thought it was funny as hell.
Along with school trips and day trips for local families, the Cape May County Zoo is actually pretty popular for out of towners looking to do something different while on vacation at the shore. A friend of mine owns a local limo company in South Jersey (www.vinelandsbestlimo.com), and was telling me how he actually gets a good amount of business in the summer months from people who are taking trips to the zoo to see Rocky and all the other animals there. It was something I never would have thought of to rent a limo or car for, but it goes to show that the tourism demand and popularity for exotic wildlife such as Tigers in NJ is alive and well and is not just limited to the beach or gambling in Atlantic City
Over the past few years, the zoo has actually spent over $500K to improve Rocky’s habitat. Expanding his enclosure and giving more room to roam has helped keep him a happy tiger. Keeping him happy is paramount, because even animals can feel stressed and have physical and emotional health issues. Back in 2013, the zookeepers found a tumor that kept recurring even after multiple surgeries. He underwent three surgeries to remove the tumor each time it came back, and had 6 months of chemo therapy. He is fortunate enough today to be cancer free and to not have had any serious adverse effects from the treatment. He is living his life as happy and playful as he ever was.
If you are in NJ, another family favorite zoo that is close by that you might not have thought of is the Philadelphia Zoo. They have spent a great deal of time and money (over $2M) to engineer and build the “Big Cat Crossing”. It is a mesh bridge that allows all the big cats, such as tigers, lions, jaguars, and others to move about the park along protected mesh walkways overhead of the visitors. The bridges connect different enclosures and encourages the animals to be curious and explore and gives the patrons more chances to see and interact with the animals.
They also focus on conservation. They have recently brought in a new tiger named Grom to hopefully mate with the female tigers they currently have. They are an endangered species, so any new baby tigers would be a welcome and encouraging boost.
Most people might not think of NJ as being a good place to see tigers, but they might need to think again. The local wildlife conservation efforts are going strong. The zoos are accredited and following strict guidelines to make sure that these animals are well taken care of. Even more importantly, they are taking steps to encourage mating to help this species grow and stay around for the generations to come to appreciate.
So if you happen to live in NJ or PA, or you are down at the NJ shore for vacation, consider taking some time to go see Rocky or Grom. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did. I know I always am.