Could you survive in a lifeboat with a tiger? It’s a strange question, but one that the Calgary Zoo would like to help you answer.
Life of Pi, a film based on Saskatchewan author Yann Martel’s novel of the same name – and filmed almost entirely in Montreal – has been nominated for 11 Oscars. The story follows the protagonist, Pi, as he travels from his family’s zoo in Pondicherry, India, to Canada. The ship is caught in a storm, and capsizes, leaving Pi behind on a lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker.
The story is rich in magical realism, but taken at face value the question is intriguing. Would you truly be able to survive on a lifeboat with a tiger?
As part of their school programs, the Calgary Zoo is hosting a discovery class for Language Arts students from grades 7 – 12 that aims to answer that question. The program examines the natural history of tigers, discusses animal husbandry and training, and how the Pondicherry Zoo compares to the Calgary Zoo. The class runs for 90 minutes, and is available from September through April. There’s more information available on the Zoo’s website.
The Calgary Zoo is currently home to six Amur, Siberian tigers. They’re the largest cat in the world, and unfortunately due to hunting and habitat loss there are only about 450 left. Calgary has three adult Amur tigers, named Baikal, Katja, and Kita. Three cubs were born to Katja in March, 2012. Two males, Samkha and Vasili, and a female, Kira.
If you’re trying to weigh your odds on a lifeboat, they might be better with Samka, Vasili, or Kira, than with one of the grown ups. The average adult Siberian tiger weighs about 400 lbs. When deer and boar populations are low, tigers have been known to prey on wolves, keeping their population negligibly low, and sometimes even bears. However, the Bengal tiger (such as Richard Parker) has historically been a man-eater much more frequently than the Siberian tiger. So what are your chances of surviving while stranded at sea? You might have to sign up your kid for a Discovery Class to find out.