We are taking you inside the new Tigers of the Realm exhibit at the John Ball Zoo.
Grand Rapids is the home now for three rare Amur tigers. The new habitat at the zoo was created just for them and will open to the public on June 14.
The exhibit is on the northwest side of the zoo in the Idema Forest Realm. It includes a large habitat near the tiger's holding building and breeding facility and also has a concessions area for visitors. There is also a new visitor path and mesh-enclosed trail for the tigers to another habitat to the west.
The tigers are named Yuri, Kuza, and Nika. Yuri and Kuza are brothers and came from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse. (Yuri is the photo on page 1.) Nika is a female and came from the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing.
John Ball Zoo has not had tigers since 2008, and the planning to bring them back to Grand Rapids has been in the works for years.
Crews broke ground on the $4 million exhibit last October. Construction continued through the bitter winter.
Members of the John Ball Zoo Society got a preview of the facilities early in May.
Tigers of the Realm opens on June 14, but this is only Phase 1. Phase 2 is underway and will open in 2015 and will include a Tiger trail and a water area.
Amur tigers are a highly endangered species from a forest region near the border of Russia and China in Asia. Many say the tigers' native habitat is similar to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There are only about 500 Amur tigers living in the wild.
Amur tigers are the biggest cats in the world, with males measuring up to 11 feet long and weighing 600 pounds.
They can be active at any time of the day, but are primarily nocturnal animals. They stalk their prey, which include elk, boar, bears, and deer. They may also eat smaller animals.
They can eat up to 60 pounds of meat if they are hungry, but usually eat about 20 pounds at one feeding.
Meet the vet who will be taking care of the tigers below.
Tim Sampson is the man who is the "Big Cat Keeper" at John Ball Zoo. He is a Zookeeper with a lot of experience with the larger animals. He also led Aaron Ofseyer through an episode of Aaron's Adventures taking care of the lions at the John Ball Zoo at an earlier date.
Dan Malone also shared with us how the zoo gets its animals.
WZZM also spoke with several visitors ready to meet the Tigers. Watch that video below:
Greg Dykstra is the architect of the Tigers of the Realm. He discussed the plans.
Marilyn Crawford and her husband were one of the key donors to the Tigers of the Realm Exhibit.
She spoke with Lauren and Aaron Monday morning. Watch her interview below.
The Tigers of the Realm opens at John Ball Zoo on June 14. Visit www.johnballzoosociety.org for details on tickets, membership, and educational programs.
Allmon Forrester shared some details of what it takes to run the Zoo.
And Andy McIntyre shared information on education at the Zoo.