Published August 09, 2012
A Bengal tiger cub at the center of a custody dispute has been living for the past three months at the city animal shelter in Guadalajara, the capital of the western Mexican state of Jalisco, sharing the facility with about 50 cats and dogs.
Albert enjoys playing with a new basketball at the shelter, totally unaware of his legal predicament.
"He's happy here," shelter director Guillermo Korkowski told Efe, adding that he was "very fond" of his 6-month-old guest.
Albert arrived at the shelter on May 12 after his former home, Parque Alcalde, was closed by city officials for failing to comply with the terms of its permit.
City and federal environmental officials seized the tiger cub, a cockatoo and several other small exotic animals that served as the park's attractions.
Albert was leased to the park's owners by a man who has failed to claim him, prompting environmental officials to sue the man over custody of the big cat and to require certification of his legal origin, Korkowski said.
The Environment Secretariat's holding facility was full, so the cub had to be taken to the city animal shelter temporarily.
Albert's stay has been longer than expected, forcing shelter officials to build an adequate space for the growing tiger, who is nearly a half-meter (1.6-feet) tall and weighs about 70 kilos (154 pounds).
A large cage that held up to 21 dogs was customized to give the big cat certain luxuries, such as a kiddie pool, a swing made from an old tire, a tree trunk to use as a scratching post and a desk so he can sleep in a high place.
"He's the king here and he knows it, he knows all of us and is used to the place," Korkowski said while petting the tiger through the bars of his cage.
Albert eats nearly three kilos (6.6 pounds) of imported chicken every day.
He gets beef only on Fridays "even though he doesn't like it very much," the shelter director said.
Francisco Guerrero, who is in charge of feeding the tiger and giving him his calcium supplements, is the only person at the shelter who was brave enough to give Albert his shots and deworm him.
Guerrero sometimes even plays ball with the big cat.
"Tigers also have to be controlled, but you have to know how to respect their place," Guerrero said, adding that he was happy to get close to one of the big cats.
Shelter officials say they know the tiger cannot stay at the facility much longer because he will soon need more space.
They hope Albert's legal case will be resolved soon so environmental officials can take him to a zoo that has the facilities to care for him or that his owner can find the cub a new home.
The latter option appears unlikely because few people "can keep and feed a 300-kilo (660-pound) adult tiger at their house," Korkowski said.