Tigers, like other cats, want to be able to hide when they feel uncomfortable or when they simply need space from each other . In a zoo setting it is important for this need to be met as it gives the tiger more choice over their environment. This choice also includes a tiger having the ability to to hide from zoo visitors in hiding places that may simply be blind spots, or areas in which the public can not see the tiger from a particular angle. By providing this option through the careful design of tiger enclosures, it provides the tiger the ability to relax away from prying eyes if they so desire.
Keeping the grass long
Cover can also be provided by strategic use of vegetation and natural foliage. This should include trees and logs to mirror the tiger’s natural habitat. This also means there should be areas of longer grass where the tiger can hide unseen with studies showing the inclusion of such items can reduced abnormal repetitive behaviours . Enclosures that are kept in what viewers perceive as pristine condition, i.e. short mown grass, are not meeting the needs of the tiger and are instead catering to the visitor and their desire to be able to see the tiger at all times. Although the ability for the visitor to see the tiger should be factored in, the key consideration should be the tiger’s welfare and their ability to hide if they choose to do so.
Getting a cave
Tigers also like to have areas within their enclosure that is cooler, particularly in hot climates such as Thailand. A good enclosure should incorporate cave structures which can also serve as a hiding spot; a climbing structure providing views outside of the enclosure ; or a suitable place to sunbathe. These types of caves can be large and more open, or can be smaller and more enclosed like a natural wild tiger den. Caves can be designed and created out of natural rocks or created using structural wiring elements and rougher concrete textures to create the perfect shape.
Smaller dens such as those dug into the earth can provide a total hiding place. These are also good to provide for pregnant tigresses, as in the wild they would use dens to give birth . However in zoos, birthing dens tend to be made in the night room or indoor areas to allow keeper monitoring of the cubs and for easier cleaning. Nevertheless, no matter the location or style of the den, the tiger should be provided with suitable bedding, such as straw .
The creation of hiding places should also consider the tiger’s ability to hide away from other con-specifics. Though considered solitary, it is very common for captive tigers to be housed with at least one other tiger [1,5]. Similar to humans, while they may get along fine, there are times when the tiger may just wish to have some space. This means it is very important for there to be enough areas for the tigers to move away or hide from one another. Doing so allows the tiger to be able to choose where they wish to spend time, rather than being forced into unwanted close contact with the other tigers in the enclosure, which could lead to aggression.
1. Szokalski, M.S., Litchfield, C.A. and Foster, W.K. (2012). Enrichment for captive tigers (Panthera tigris); Current knowledge and future directions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 139(1-2) pp. 1-9
2. Vaz, J., Narayan, E.J., Kumar, R.D., Thenmozhi. K., Thiyagesan, K. and Baskaran. N. (2017). Prevalence and determinants of stereotypic behaviours and physiological stress among tigers and leopards in Indian zoos. PloS One https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174711
3. Lyons, J., Young, R.J. and Deag, J.M. (1997). The effects of physical characteristics of the environment and feeding regime on the behavior of captive felids. Zoo Biology 16, pp. 71-83.
4. AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan® (2016). Tiger Care Manual. Silver Spring, MD: Association of Zoos and Aquariums
5. De Rouck, M., Kitchener, A.C., Law, G. and Nelissen, M. (2005). A comparative study of the influence of social housing conditions on the behaviour of captive tigers (Panthera tigris) Animal Welfare 14, pp. 229–238.