Entertainment at the York Fair is always top notch, and this year does not disappoint. One particular act new to the York Fair has been stealing the show all week long! Andrea Michaels caught up with the Bengal Tigers to learn more about the hard work that goes into taming these ferocious felines.
Exotics animals are not new to the York Fair. This year's question was how to top previous acts. Cody Cashman, Sales Manager and Fair Coordinator says they couldn't disappoint fair goers this year! "We've had elephants. We've had camels. We've had all different kinds of animals, but we've never really had tigers."
Bruno Blaszak, a third generation tiger trainer, answered the call, and he brought 7 tigers, with many different breeds. "We've got a white tiger, a white Bengal, a Siberian tiger, we have royal Bengal tigers, and we also got a very rare Sumatran tiger."
Training for these shows begins at a very young age. They were born and raised in captivity. Some required bottle-feeding after their mothers rejected them. This human contact is very important, Blaszak says. "Being with them, so they know who you are, and you have a mutual respect with each other."
Once they are old enough and adjusted to human interaction, it's time to learn some tricks! Of course, you need the right motivation. Blaszak says, "A lot of meat treats. We go through a lot of meat treats to get them to do certain behaviors and stuff like that, because all of our training is done through positive reinforcement."
An individual tiger's comfortability plays a role in determining which tricks it learns. "We kind of don't want to force any animal to do something it doesn't want to do. We'll kind of decifer what animal will be suitable for let's say jumping," says Blaszak.
A proper diet is key for their busy show schedule. They eat about one hundred fifty pounds of meat every day. And in addition to the meat, we actually have a little supplement concoction that's sprinkled on top of it to make sure they have the vital nutrients that they need so that they can stay strong and do their shows all day long.
Upekeep is also important to their training. Happy Tigers are more likely to do what you want them to do! Every day, they are hosed down and their cages are cleaned. They even get some time to walk around and stretch their legs in the show ring.
In-between shows, they are home in a ten acre compound in Florida where they are free to roam around and relax. All of the hard work has clearly paid off, because there's one thing York Fair goers have been asking about. "Number one question this year is, 'where's the tigers?'" says Cashman.