Amur tiger at the Oregon Zoo plays soccer to stay young - KPTV - FOX 12

Amur tiger at the Oregon Zoo plays soccer to stay young

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Courtesy: The Oregon Zoo Courtesy: The Oregon Zoo

Mikhail is one of the oldest Amur tigers in the world, and animal-care experts at the Oregon Zoo are working hard to keep the 17-year-old active by playing soccer.

"Just like housecats, tigers sleep the majority of the day," said keeper Celess Zinda. "But especially now that he's older, it's important for Mik to get enough activity and movement to keep his joints limber - and the way we make sure that happens is through play."

Mikhail bats and chases a big plastic ball along the floor of the moat surrounding his habitat.

"He really seems to enjoy this activity," Zinda said. "And clearly he's in good shape for an old guy. One of our veterinarians was watching Mik the other day and marveling at how active and playful he is for a cat his age."

Animal care staff at the Oregon Zoo frequently add new enrichment items into Mikhail’s environment to keep him active and encourage natural behaviors.

"Mik's definitely getting up there in years," added zoo curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's tiger area. "The life expectancy for Amur tigers in the wild is around 10 to 15 years, and Mik's turning 18 this year, so he's considered very elderly. But thankfully, he's still active and playful. Our keepers work hard to make sure he stays healthy and engaged, and this game is just another example of that."

The Amur tiger species derives its name from the Amur River, which runs through the region of southeast Russia to which this subspecies is native.

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