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Liger Queen: how Russian liger gave birth to four liligers

Novosibirsk Zoo is now the home of a unique animal: a liliger, which is a hybrid of a liger and a lion. The first liliger was born at the zoo in 2012. The very first liliger was named Chiara, after the heroine of "The Lion King."

Andrey Shapran

Novosibirsk Zoo is now the home of a unique animal: a liliger, which is a hybrid of a liger and a lion. The first liliger was born at the zoo in 2012. The very first liliger was named Chiara, after the heroine of "The Lion King."
Three more cubs have since appeared.  Born in May, they are already fairly active, although their mother liger Zita soon ran out of milk and her maternal duty had to be fulfilled by a local cat.

Andrey Shapran

Three more cubs have since appeared. Born in May, they are already fairly active, although their mother liger Zita soon ran out of milk and her maternal duty had to be fulfilled by a local cat.
The liliger cubs are fed twice a day. The baby animals get through 7 kg of meat, one rabbit, 800 g of milk, and one egg per day.

Andrey Shapran

The liliger cubs are fed twice a day. The baby animals get through 7 kg of meat, one rabbit, 800 g of milk, and one egg per day.
Their mother, Zita, was born in the zoo in 2004. A liger is a cross between a lion and a tigress. In terms of size and appearance, ligers are similar to the cave lion from the Pleistocene period and the American lion.

Andrey Shapran

Their mother, Zita, was born in the zoo in 2004. A liger is a cross between a lion and a tigress. In terms of size and appearance, ligers are similar to the cave lion from the Pleistocene period and the American lion.
Zita's birth was spontaneous and completely unplanned. "No one even thought about producing a unique hybrid," Roza Solovyova, a senior zoo technician at Novosibirsk Zoological Park, rightly observes. "We put two cubs — a lion and a tiger — in the same cage to save space. It is common practice; young predators can live in harmony together, just as long as they don't have to fight for food. The lion and tiger cubs became friends, romping around and "playing tag" with each other. When the animals grew up, we put them in separate enclosures, of course, but the loving couple didn't give the entire zoo a moment's peace.”

Andrey Shapran

Zita's birth was spontaneous and completely unplanned. "No one even thought about producing a unique hybrid," Roza Solovyova, a senior zoo technician at Novosibirsk Zoological Park, rightly observes. "We put two cubs — a lion and a tiger — in the same cage to save space. It is common practice; young predators can live in harmony together, just as long as they don't have to fight for food. The lion and tiger cubs became friends, romping around and "playing tag" with each other. When the animals grew up, we put them in separate enclosures, of course, but the loving couple didn't give the entire zoo a moment's peace.”
The father of baby liligers is Sam, an African lion. Initially, hybrid big cats were born by chance, like Zita, in menageries and circuses. But when handlers noticed the colossal fascination with these unusual creatures, ligers began to be bred on purpose. European circuses call the cats "money makers."

Andrey Shapran

The father of baby liligers is Sam, an African lion. Initially, hybrid big cats were born by chance, like Zita, in menageries and circuses. But when handlers noticed the colossal fascination with these unusual creatures, ligers began to be bred on purpose. European circuses call the cats "money makers."
The liger is the largest cat in the world. And the largest of the ligers is Hercules, who resides at the "Jungle Island", Miami, USA, interactive theme park. Hercules weighs 410 kg — the equivalent of 100 domestic cats, or two large lions, or 5-6 people (the carrying capacity of a standard elevator). Rearing up on his hind legs, Hercules is just short of being a four-meter-tall giant.

Andrey Shapran

The liger is the largest cat in the world. And the largest of the ligers is Hercules, who resides at the "Jungle Island", Miami, USA, interactive theme park. Hercules weighs 410 kg — the equivalent of 100 domestic cats, or two large lions, or 5-6 people (the carrying capacity of a standard elevator). Rearing up on his hind legs, Hercules is just short of being a four-meter-tall giant.
Male ligers, with rare exceptions, have almost no mane, but unlike lions, ligers can and do swim. Another distinctive feature is that female ligers (ligresses) can produce offspring, which is unusual for feline hybrids.

Andrey Shapran

Male ligers, with rare exceptions, have almost no mane, but unlike lions, ligers can and do swim. Another distinctive feature is that female ligers (ligresses) can produce offspring, which is unusual for feline hybrids.
The remarkable gigantism of ligers is likely the result of genomic imprinting. Genes that accelerate the growth of the foetus and the placenta under genomic imprinting typically act on the paternal chromosome, while those that inhibit foetal growth do likewise on the maternal.

Andrey Shapran

The remarkable gigantism of ligers is likely the result of genomic imprinting. Genes that accelerate the growth of the foetus and the placenta under genomic imprinting typically act on the paternal chromosome, while those that inhibit foetal growth do likewise on the maternal.
It is assumed that polygamous species (including lions, whose females may mate with several males) are more strongly influenced by their paternal genes than are monogamous species (which include tigers). Ligers acquire the lion's genes, which more actively promote growth in offspring, while the tigress's genes inhibit and weaken them. This explains why a liger is larger than a lion, and why a tigon is smaller than a tiger.

Andrey Shapran

It is assumed that polygamous species (including lions, whose females may mate with several males) are more strongly influenced by their paternal genes than are monogamous species (which include tigers). Ligers acquire the lion's genes, which more actively promote growth in offspring, while the tigress's genes inhibit and weaken them. This explains why a liger is larger than a lion, and why a tigon is smaller than a tiger.
As a rare beast that does not exist in the wild, the liger has become emblematic: the Zaeltsovsky region of Novosibirsk put it on its coat of arms — in honor of Zita. Novosibirsk students write essays about Zita, and one of the Palaces of Children's Art is called "Liger."

Andrey Shapran

As a rare beast that does not exist in the wild, the liger has become emblematic: the Zaeltsovsky region of Novosibirsk put it on its coat of arms — in honor of Zita. Novosibirsk students write essays about Zita, and one of the Palaces of Children's Art is called "Liger."
The star of the zoo, Zita, is kind and playful. She looks with surprise and interest at strangers, and greets familiar faces with something approaching a smile. Every day, Zita munches her way through 8 kg of meat, so she looks super-fed.

Andrey Shapran

The star of the zoo, Zita, is kind and playful. She looks with surprise and interest at strangers, and greets familiar faces with something approaching a smile. Every day, Zita munches her way through 8 kg of meat, so she looks super-fed.
"Zita knows the face of almost every single child in the region," says Roza Solovyova. "Of course, Zita's enclosure is surrounded by a high barrier, so it's impossible to get close to the cage and stroke her. She is after all a predator, and no one really knows when her instincts might suddenly awaken."

Andrey Shapran

"Zita knows the face of almost every single child in the region," says Roza Solovyova. "Of course, Zita's enclosure is surrounded by a high barrier, so it's impossible to get close to the cage and stroke her. She is after all a predator, and no one really knows when her instincts might suddenly awaken."
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22 July, 2013
Tags: animals, novosibirsk

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