Big cat with appetite needs room to keep growing

May 13, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Tiffany eats eight cans of chicken cat food a day and loves romping with a Welsh corgi named Pepper.

But the 9-month-old orange striped cat is not just a playful tabby with a big appetite. She is a 300-pound Siberian tiger and one of the star attractions at the NEWARCC Petting Farm in Davidsonville.

The cub, raised by Steve and Debbie Collison since she was only 5 weeks old, has outgrown their house and now her small fenced yard.

NEWARCC, the National Endangered Wild Animal Research and Conservation Center, is holding a fund-raiser Sunday for a new home for Tiffany.

The Collisons, owners of NEWARCC, wish to create a quarter-acre exhibit with an exercise area, pool and new shelter for the rare tiger.

They do not yet know how much the new facility will cost or how many fund-raisers they will need to pay for it. They hope to begin construction this summer.

The couple began raising wild animals 15 years ago when they acquired two cougars. Four years ago, in order to help pay for their operation and to educate children about the animals, they opened the petting zoo.

In addition to big cats, NEWARCC has ostrich-like birds called rheas, rare sheep and exotic waterfowl. The Collisons hope to add wallabies and perhaps a monkey in the future.

In addition to the wild and exotic species, the farm also has the usual assortment of petting zoo animals.

The children who visit the farm off Governor's Bridge Road can feed apple slices to Bubba and Buster, the potbellied pigs; give carrots to King, a white pony; rub Willie the lama; and pet $H Handsel the miniature donkey. But as Mrs. Collison leads children through the farm, she warns them that only she can touch the tiger cub, cougars, cockatoos and rheas.

Each year, 5,000 people visit the farm, which is open by appointment only, Mrs. Collison said.

The facility is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is a nonprofit organization. Local businesses have donated fencing, cement and lumber. Admissions help pay the cost of maintaining the zoo.

Tiffany, for example, now eats 7 pounds of meat a day in addition to the canned cat food. When she is grown she will eat 20 pounds of meat a day, and it will cost about $4,000 a year just to feed her.

Mrs. Collison said she always wanted a tiger, but it took several years to find one. They acquired Tiffany from a private zoo in Ohio as part of a breeding program.

Only a few hundred Siberian tigers remain in the wild, despite laws to protect them. Mrs. Collison said she believes that within a few years, the animals will no longer exist outside of zoos, circuses and breeding farms. But she said maintaining tigers in captivity preserves the gene pool for attempts to reintroduce the animals into the wild.

The fund-raiser will be held Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $7 for children under 12. There will be hayrides, tours of the farm and a picnic catered by Adam's the Place for Ribs.

For more information, call the farm at 410-798-0206.

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