WEST BEND, Wis. - The circle of life is on display at Shalom Wildlife Zoo in West Bend, where Ginger the tiger welcomed five cubs a week after Goliath the tiger, friend to Ginger, had to be put down.
Shalom Wildlife Zoo features four miles of gravel roads where you can walk, drive or ride in a golf cart and enjoy 75 species. There are signs of life everywhere.
"When you have over 800 animals, there’s always something being born and something dying," said David Fechter, co-owner. "It’s just life in general, but this is so special."
Fechter has developed a special bond with one tiger in particular.
"Ginger has been really sweet to me," said Fechter. "I love that cat."
Ginger is in the middle of one of life’s biggest miracles. After having two stillborn babies two years ago, she had five healthy cubs Aug. 5.
These days, Fechter spends about four hours a day with Ginger and the babies.
"Each one, every single tiger, is a blessing," said Fechter.
With tigers in the wild facing potential extinction, Fechter said this blessing goes even further. Shalom's tiger Goliath, who is not the father of these new cubs but a friend to Ginger, had to be put down a week before Ginger give birth.
"That was a rough one," said Fechter. "It really was. We tried everything we could to help. He hung in there – tried to keep going, protect Ginger. His big goal in life was to protect her. In the last two months, she knew he was dying, and she, tigers, in general, are solitary. They don’t hang out together, but she would lay with him and comfort him."
Just as much a part of life is death.
"That’s how it goes; right?" said Fechter. "The cycle of life."
That cycle continues with the birth of Ginger's five tiny miracles.
"One baby will be (named) Goliath," said Fechter.
Fechter said Thursday they expect the tiger cubs to have their eyes open and be out and about in about a week.
One of Ginger's cubs is white, which is very rare. There are only about 200 in the world, Fechter said. That trait can be a result of inbreeding, but that's not the case here. Fechter explained that Ginger had her babies with an orange tiger named Jona, who she is not related to. The white cub resulted from a recessive gene.
The zoo’s intention is to keep all five cubs.