Pig suckles baby tigers at Thailand zoo

Tue Apr 21, 2009 6:22am EDT
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CHONBURI, Thailand (Reuters Life!) - A Thai zoo hoping to tame its tigers is letting a sow suckle a pair of cubs, while a tigeress takes care of some of her piglets.

The bizarre arrangement at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi is intended to accustom the prey and predators to one another, and make the tigers more docile, officials say.

It has also drawn thousands of tourists to the zoo, located some 80 km (50 miles) east of Bangkok.

"It is to calm the tigers' fierce behavior because the pig will not teach them to hunt or be wild. The pig will only lie down and feed them, so that could help calm their fierceness," said veterinarian Soonthon Kamvisek.

In one room, a two-year-old pig named Ple allows the tiger cubs to suckle along with her piglets. In the next room, the cubs' mother nuzzles six little pigs.

Both surrogate mothers are loving to their little ones and never push the babies away when they are hungry.

"It is weird as I have never seen it anywhere else before. It shows that whether they are pigs to tigers, they can still live together," said visitor Nanthiga Sangchan.

The zoo has successfully bred at least 50 tiger cubs a year, and it currently houses more than 400 Bengal tigers.

In Thailand, tigers are protected wildlife and cannot be owned without official permission.

(Reporting by Papitchaya Boonngok, writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Sugita Katyal)