Wider Horizons

Lethbridge College Environmental Sciences instructors Gordon Cox (L) and Shane Roersma look forward to using the new Siberian tiger donation for student learning.

 

If you’ve ever wanted to bone up on Siberian tiger anatomy, you’ll soon get your chance thanks to the January donation by Environment Canada of a rare Siberian tiger specimen, including a complete mounted skeleton and pelt, to Lethbridge College.

The tiger was domestically raised at St. Paul Silverspur Wildlife Ranch in Alberta. After it passed away, the ranch and a group of partners had the tiger mounted by the Royal Tyrell Museum for educational use and donated it to Environment Canada. The museum showcased it for years as an educational tool before it eventually fell into disuse. “It had been sitting in the office probably for the last seven or eight years and has never came out of the crate,” says Gordon Cox, an Environmental Sciences instructor. “They asked us if we were interested in it for education, and of course we were.”

Siberian tigers are the largest member of the cat family with adults growing as big as 3 metres in length and weighing up to 227 kg. In the 19th century, Siberian tigers ranged from the forests of eastern Russia into northern China and throughout the Korean peninsula, but hunting, poaching and deforestation have pushed them to the brink. Today, the Siberian tiger is an endangered species with fewer than 500 individual big cats left, mostly in national parks and nature preserves in the far east of Russia.

The skeleton will eventually join the college’s extensive collection of wildlife, including the Hubbard Collection, the most comprehensive display of the province’s wildlife in Alberta. “We’re going to put it a permanent display so anyone at the college will be able to look at it” and learn from it, says Cox. “Plus, we’re going to be using it in classes because it provides a great visual of the anatomy. [The tiger] is similar to our local large cat – the cougar – although it’s a lot larger. But you’d still be able to point out a lot of the common features.”

Wider Horizons
Story by Jeremy Franchuk / Photo by Rob Olson
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