Paw-sitive introduction for feline friends

The tigers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have been introduced in time for Valentine's Day.
The tigers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have been introduced in time for Valentine's Day.

A PURR-FECT romance has begun for two endangered tigers.

Two year-old Vladimir and Sayan, three, will spend Valentine’s Day together at Yorkshire Wildlife Park after spending eight months living in neighbouring enclosures.

After months of preparations to introduce them formally - with the risk injury or even death to the tigers if they didn’t react well to the introduction – 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 get along.

Cheryl Williams, park director, 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 to the park separately as part of the Amur Tiger Breeding Programme with Vladimir moving to the Branton based site last February with Sayan arriving in May.

They were initially separated by mesh so they could see each other and even though, like most men, Vladimir was laid back about his new female friend, Sayan played a little harder to get settling in.

The tigers spent time alone in each other’s enclosures to ensure they knew each other’s territories and smells.

Carnivore 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.

She said: “My heart was just pounding. I was so nervous. 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 chivalrous Vlad plucked up the courage to approach Sayan, politely greeting her before they playfully started jumping on each other.

It is hoped in the future the tigers will have their own cubs, but any breeding programme will have to be carefully monitored by experts.