Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo - One Tiger's Tale
Kingwood, WV
I discovered this zoo quite by accident while driving along Rte 7, on Sunday Nov 11, Veteran's Day.  I heard tale of this zoo before, but didn't give it much though.  The sign says it all - there has got to be some Tigers there! 

I couldn't help notice the smaller sign hanging below - "Petting Zoo".  Somehow I don't think the tigers would be part of that.  In fact, I suspect the Petting Zoo would make excellent food for the Tigers.

Entering the Visitor's Center, I was bowled over by a horrible stench.  This was not a good sign of things to come.  They had a few animals in the Visitor's Center - a monkey, a macaw and a couple small alligators.  Surely that alone couldn't explain why the place smelled so bad!  Anyone with animal related allergies would surely pass out.  Judging from the letters from children on the wall they must get school groups and I have to wonder if some of the kids come down with serious allergy attacks.

I also noticed that all the childrens' letters praised the zoo and the keepers.  Click on the image to see a letter I'd like to see:

After paying the admission, I entered the grounds.  I think the average person could walk the entire zoo in about 10 minutes so that tells you something about the size of their cages.  The herbivores had reasonable sized pens - about what you might expect at a reasonable farm or ranch.  But the carnivores, especially the cats, were in horribly small cages.  They might as well have been in prison.  Obviously I spent more time looking at the Tigers, so here they are:

Bengal Tigers

Saber and Shira

Saber is a large Bengal Tiger, he is about 500 lbs.  4 years old and quite active.  Shira is a smaller tigress, also about 4 years.  Notice that the male is quite a bit bigger than the female and has a larger head.

The zookeepers don't dare to enter their cage - if they need to do anything with the tigers they must use a tranquilizing dart.  Quite the relationship, isn't it?

The signs reads "Extremely Dangerous Animal".  I'd be dangerous too if I had to live in a cage like that!

Shira the Tigress

Click on Shira and Saber and you can get a pretty good idea of the size of cage they have to live in.

The zookeepers assured me they were building a much larger den for the tigers with a wading pool, to be open in the Spring.  Perhaps that is good news, but  still, that means the tigers will have to spend a rather cold winter in these horrible cages.  They can grow thicker fur to adapt.  I can't wait to visit my stripey friends in April when the zoo reopens, to see if things have improved.

Saber and Shira have two offspring living at the Zoo.  Tigger, who is about a year old, and a little rambunctious cub, about the size of a large dog.  As you can see, these cats get big in a hurry.  Even the little cub can be too much to handle, the zoo-keepers have the scratches to prove it.

More Tigers

This little guy, a 5 month old cub, was actually the first Tiger I saw at the zoo.  Very rambunctious and looking for action (looking to get out of his tiny cage, I'm sure!)
A sad Tigger in his cage.  I couldn't help hear him moaning and growning - for sure I thought he was not well.  He was alone in a cage marked for wolves.  The zookeepers assured me he was okay - and that he soon would be transferred to a better cage.  It was at that point that I realized that Tigger was basically crying.

The lions and Black Panthers had it no better.  Same with the bears, wolves and some other smaller animals.  Note that releasing these animals in the wild isn't as simple as it seems because they were born in a zoo (prison) grew up in the zoo and still live in the zoo.  Therefore they have not developed the necessary instinctive hunting skills they would need to survive in the wild.  The zookeepers told me if they got free, they would probably starve to death.  So, now I understand why zoo breeding of these animals is not a good idea.  It would be a horrible thought, that in the future, the only tigers living are those in zoos.  You see, the more you know about zoos, the worse it looks.

A lion and lioness.  It is the lioness, not the lion. that does all the hunting in the wild.  But the lion eats first.  His job is to defend the pride, and basically sleep a lot of the time.  Must be nice.  But this lion doesn't have it so good in his cage.   I couldn't help notice the zebra in an open pen across the way.  That zebra is certainly safe from the lioness.

The black panther is a rare beautiful cat - also very tempermental too.  More dangerous than the tigers in some respects.  I'd be tempermental too if I had to live in this kind of cage.

Getting back to the visitor's center, I had a long discussion with the zookeepers.  While we were talking, I had my focus on that little monkey in the cage once again.  This zoo is a Mom and Pop operation and the monkey was now climbing over the Mom.  I kept thinking how square a meal that would make for one of the tigers.  So, I'm not all PETA, since part of me would say "Go for it!" if they offered to put that or another small live animal in with the Tiger.  Then it would be fun to watch Nature take its course.  I would support PETT (People for the Ethical Treatment of Tigers).  And this zoo doesn't help my cause.

Copyright 2001, Tigerdude.com
Page created Nov 19, 2001