Hybrid Lion-Tiger Born in Russia
A traveling zoo has cross-bred a tigress with a lion to create a cute "liger" named Tsar, one of just a few dozen in existence.
An extremely rare cross between a tiger and a lion has been born in a travelling zoo in southern Russia, one of only a few dozen of the animals believed to exist.
Named Tsar, the two-month-old "liger" cub is the offspring of a tigress Princess and lion Caesar, zoo director Erik Airapetyan told AFP.
"They have lived together for a long time and know each other well. When the tigress was on heat, she didn't have any other choice," he said.
The cub has the beige fur of a lion and the stripes of a tiger and is currently being fed on milk from one of the zoo's goats.
Ligers can grow to be the biggest cat in the animal kingdom, weighing more than 400 kilograms (882 pounds).
A liger called Hercules in the United States is currently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest feline in the world, at a weight of 418 kilograms (922 pounds) and length of 3.33 meters (11 feet).
U.S. zoos do not generally cross-breed big cats, as there is thought to be no purpose to breeding an animal that does not exist in the wild. Instead, they put their energies toward conservation of existing species.
"In terms of conservation," a U.S. lion expert told National Geographic in 2012, "it's so far away from anything, it's kind of pointless to even say it's irrelevant."
In the case with Tsar: "The mother [tiger] was in heat but there were no tigers, and we saw that she was suffering [without a male tiger] so we decided to put her together with a lion. Because they lived next to each other for a long time before, it worked," Airapetyan told Deutsche Welle.
Earlier notions that all ligers are sterile have not proved accurate, as shown by the birth in 2012 of "liliger" Kiara - born to a liger mother and a lion father.
AFP contributed to this report.