Oklahoma Zoo Welcomes First Male Litter of ‘LiLigers’
Lifestyle| | By Robin Milling
There is exciting baby news in the captive animal kingdom. For the first time in the world, a litter of four male “LiLigers” were born on September 10 at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. No, this is not a typo. A LiLiger is the hybrid of a male lion and a female liger whose offspring produces a unique combination of the two – three quarters lion and one quarter tiger.
The LiLigers are the second litter born to proud big cat parents – Simba, a male lion and Akaria, a female liger – (a cross between male lion and a female tiger); three female cubs were born in 2013 at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park – now known as Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.
This litter was a celebration for Joe Maldonado, who has bred hybrids at the animal park since it opened in 1999, as ligers were thought to be sterile.
“For 30 years since the liger has been in existence, everyone thought they were sterile. But we paired a baby liger and a baby white tiger male six years ago and came up with the first tiliger. That proved female ligers weren’t sterile,” Maldonado told ABC News.
Maldonado has become the world’s expert of hybridizing of big cats. For over 32 years, he has fine-tuned the research needed for the science of hybrids and what they have to offer. He has worked with geneticists with the National Institute of Health and Texas A&M University for nearly 15 years to provide DNA to create these unique cross-breeds.
According to Maldonado, the reasoning behind hybrids is due to pure bred tigers and lions unadaptability to climate change – “making them extinct in the years to come.” Maldonado believes hybrids will be genetically stronger and thus able to adapt.
LiLigers came into existence in 2012 when the first known female LiLiger was born at Russia’s Novosibirsk zoo to an 8-year-old liger named Zita. The cub was christened Kiara after the daughter of Lion King‘s Simba.
Hybreeding of big cats usually takes place in the wild, but in captivity here’s how it breaks down:
Male Tiger and Female Lion = Tigon
Male Lion and Female Tiger = Liger
Male Tiger and Female Liger = Taliger
Male lion and Female Liger = LiLiger
Male lion and Female LiLiger = L3 Liger
Watch the video of Akaria and her four male LiLiger cubs and SHARE this story if you love wild animals and their exotic breeds.