Meet Tbilisi’s Jungle Delegation!
11 September, 2014
Meet Tbilisi’s Jungle Delegation!
Something unprecedented is happening at the Tbilisi Zoo – animals, especially felines, are breeding at such a speed that many zoos around the world have become hosts to offspring sired in Georgia. Just recently, zoos in Minsk, Baku and Yerevan received white tiger cubs and male jaguars. Yet in the 1990s, the only lion in the Tbilisi Zoo used to be so enervated and emaciated from hunger that foreign journalists in Tbilisi at the time contacted animal rights groups to
send help to the impoverished king of beasts.


Today’s zoo has six white and eight tawny lions. Thirteen white and brown tigers of various ages are also eye-catching. Among other predators, a couple of black jaguars are distinguished by their fertility: three of their cubs have already been shipped to other countries, while three more are approaching what is considered adolescence among animals and will soon have to leave their parents as well.
Almost every animal has its own story here. For me, the zoo starts with a cage of white lions. Turned into a rarity by poaching activity, not many zoos can boast such a species. And if they do, breeding them is not an easy task. In Tbilisi, however, cubs were born twice in the the same year.
I remember how Cleopatra was brought from Africa. A six-month-old cub caught the attention of almost every single visitor; soon she was joined by Samuel, who became her mate. In winter of the following year, the royal family welcomed four cubs. The inexperienced mother could not care for her cubs independently in the unsuitable climatic conditions, and thus the zoo’s administration had to transfer the cubs to a special incubator. Unfortunately, only one of them, a male cub named Shumba, survived. In order for him not to feel lonely, a poodle pup of his same age named Karakula was settled into the same enclosure with Shumba. For several months now, a prince of beasts and a man’s best friend have been amiably coexisting in a huge enclosure. Crafty and smart Karakula frequently outwits the delicate cub, while his own weakness is felt only when the descendant of giant cats easily climbs a tree and sits there, as if on the throne, while the poodle watches him from below with a hurtful expression.
A month ago, Cleopatra and Samuel once again became parents and several of Shumba’s new brothers and sisters were born. There are three of them, all zealously cared for by Cleopatra. Naturally, Samuel is a bit offended by reduced attention he receives from his mate, but does not interfere with her parenting. The mother has already released snow-white cubs from the lair, proudly parading her children for all to see.
Zurab Gurielidze, director of the zoo, plans to offer organizations dedicated to preserving white lions to participate in Tbilisi Zoo’s effort of saving these wonderful species from extinction and replenishing their numbers.
Tawny lions Simba and Nala have a large family as well, with six cubs. Due to becoming parents quite early, they couldn’t look after cubs born from their first and second conception properly, and thus the little ones grew up at the zoo’s incubator. However, the third litter of cubs happily lives together with their parents, attracting attention of all visitors. On a sadder note, the zoo’s administration went through a lengthy struggle for the health of one of the cubs, named Kato – some of the best ophthalmologists were invited to conduct a surgery that would return its eyesight. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain.
Soon the family of lions will be transferred to another, specially constructed enclosure, where conditions are as close to natural ones for lions as possible.
Along with the amount of predators, the amount of trespassing, of reckless and of bold citizens also increases. For some reason, they try to climb the walls to get inside the enclosures. People who take such risks are usually inebriated, not realizing the mortal danger they put themselves into by entering or closely approaching enclosures with lions and tigers. Recently, three youngsters tried to role-play “The Knight in Panther’s Skin”, which ended up very badly for one of them. A white tiger named Maximus noticed the uninvited guests from afar and, quite understandably, took them for prey. Footage recorded by the zoo’s surveillance cameras clearly shows how reasonable people should not behave.
Unfortunately, not all people have a fondness for animals; neither are all people on good terms with upholding law and order. Due to this, not only predators, but usually docile ostriches and a plump civet became aggressive towards onlookers. Once, several unruly teenagers set fire to their tails, which, fortunately, was quickly noticed by the zoo’s guards…
White rhinos are a source of the zoo’s pride. One of them, however, became aggressive with its mate and tried to sort out their relationship through force. Unfortunately, the family dispute ended fatally for the male rhino, which is twice as puzzling due to the female rhino in question having a very amiable and conflict-free relationship with neighboring donkeys.
One of the zoo’s most recent arrivals are crested gibbons. These are so rare and expensive that they are an infrequent sight even at famous European zoos.
Another exotic sight for foreign visitors is wild goats, the family of which has recently given birth to a kid. According to the zoo’s administration, breeding wild goats is of fundamental importance for Georgia, since there are very few of them left on the country’s territory and they face extinction. This means the birth of every wild goat kid is yet another glimmer of hope for preserving their population in the Caucasus. Thus, Tbilisi Zoo strives not only to please and educate visitors, but also to preserve endangered species.
Younger onlookers are quite fond of a tiny dik-dik antelope, who is quite brave and strong, despite being only one year old. It was dubbed “brave” though the story behind it is quite sad. It lived peacefully with its kin for some time, but one day all the male dik-diks decided to pursue a single female. The tiny antelope started a fight against the other males to win the favor of the female. “The brave one” defeated his rivals and earned the female’s favour. Unfortunately, their happiness did not last long, due to the female dying during childbirth.
Recently Tbilisi Zoo saw the birth of a baby elephant as well, who was quickly relocated to an Armenian zoo, in exchange for a male elephant named Grand, intended as a partner for a female named Malka. From now on, they will try to contribute to increasing the world’s population of elephants.
The lemurs’ enclosure also attracts a large amount of onlookers, and a new member has recently been born in their family as well. Despite having a rather mischievous appearance, he is generally busy with observing his surroundings while clinging to his mother’s lap, where he feels completely protected.
Another novelty concerns African penguins. Right after their arrival from the UK, they were settled in an enormous aquarium right at the zoo’s entrance. Tbilisi Zoo will strive towards breeding them as well.
In July 2014, Tbilisi Zoo’s hamadryas baboon family had a new addition. The newborn monkey quickly became quite popular with visitors. Everything about the small baboon is eye-catching: its appearance, facial expressions, the shape of its hands, its fingernails that look as if they were manicured. Its little tuft of hair brings its resemblance to a human even further, filling children with curiosity. The baboon is female. Her mother turned her back on it immediately after its birth.
Hamadryas baboons belong to the Papio genus. These amazing animals, with their complex social hierarchy and behavior are considered a very popular sight in Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
One can talk about Tbilisi Zoo’s wonders all day, but it is best to go and see for yourself what’s going on in “Tbilisi’s Jungle” – new arrivals, newborns, animals growing old, sad or happy.
Before entering the animals’ abode, you will encounter yet another novelty – a so-called rope park, which is completely safe with activities suitable for people of all ages and physical ability. Braving various obstacles stretched between trees is fun for both children and adults.

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