Somewhere in a remote corner of Russia, Timur the goat is ushered towards his fate. Inside the enclosure is the animal which will decide that fate – one of the fiercest predators in the world.
Amur, a three-year-old Siberian tiger, stalks the goat with cold, menacing precision. But then, just as Timur is about to become a meal, something incredible happens…
The story of these two unusual animals began in November of this year. What should have been a regular meal for the tiger took a surreal turn.
Before then, the tiger had followed a fairly conventional regime – for a carnivore. Amur had regularly been fed live animals at the Far Eastern Safari Park in Primorsky Krai, a region of Russia located in the far south-east of the country.
“Year round,” park director Dmitry Mezenstev told Russian news agency RIA Novosti, “we feed the tigers live prey once a week.” And it seemed that Amur enjoyed this arrangement.
He went on to explain that the tiger had never previously hesitated when it came to killing and eating even large goats. But when plucky Timor came round for dinner, everything changed.
It soon became apparent that this was one main course which wasn’t going to be easy to swallow. “The goat was very brave,” recalled Mezenstev, “he flashed his horns or retaliated every time Amur attacked.”
When goats display their horns in this way, they are trying to assert their dominance. And while it might seem a crazy thing to do when facing an opponent as fearsome as a tiger, Timur’s gamble seemed to pay off.
“The wary tiger was confused,” said Mezenstev. “He decided not to mess with the goat.”
Keepers at the zoo believe that because Timur had never encountered a tiger before, he had never learned to be afraid of them. And while such a theory goes against what most experts believe about the instinctive behavior in animals, it could go some way to explaining what happened next.
Amazingly, Amur didn’t just decide to spare the goat – he actually became friends with it. In the weeks since their first tense encounter, the two have taken to living peacefully together in the tiger’s enclosure.
They say a leopard can’t change its spots, but Amur seems to be a tiger capable of changing his stripes. “Timur follows Amur everywhere,” explained Mezenstev, “and the tiger quietly tolerates it.”
In fact, according to a blog entry posted by the park on November 26, cheeky Timur even booted Amur out of his sleeping place. While the goat made himself at home in the tiger’s comfortable hut, the predator was relegated to sleeping on the roof.
Thankfully, Amur seems to have taken the affront in his stride, and the two are regularly seen enjoying strolls around the enclosure in each other’s company. In fact, it seems that the unlikely duo have developed quite a strong bond.
Some sources report that park officials attempted to remove Timur from the enclosure, only for Amur to roar constantly until his companion was returned. The goat, on the other hand, is said to become anxious when his tiger friend is out of his sight.
Amur’s friendship with the goat seems to be broadening his tastes, too. The tiger – who in the wild would have enjoyed a strictly carnivorous diet of large herbivores such as Timur – has even been spotted sampling some of Timur’s salt brick, a nutrient source intended solely for hoofed animals.
Many people have speculated about the reasons behind this unusual friendship. While some claim that Amur’s time in captivity has made him lazy and dulled his predatory instincts, others claim that the companionship is only temporary.
As Rostaslav Shilo of Novosibirsk Zoo told news agency TASS, “There is an 80 to 85 percent chance that [the tiger] will eat the goat.” So there could be an unpleasant sting in this tiger tale one day.
For the time being, however, things between the two friends appear to be continuing amicably. As of the park’s last update on December 6, tiger and goat were still playing happily together.
For Timur, who was fittingly named after the brave protagonist in a popular Soviet-era children’s book, life as an equal – or perhaps even a superior – to one of the world’s most fearsome animals is certainly better than ending up as lunch. Even if it isn’t meant to last.