May 15, 2020 / 4:40 PM / 13 days ago

White tigers charm visitors as Sofia Zoo reopens after coronavirus shutdown

SOFIA (Reuters) - Two white tigers have made their first public appearance at the Sofia Zoo, which has reopened after being closed for two months because of the coronavirus.

Chiafa, a white Bengal tiger, is pictured at Sofia city zoo, after it opened its doors to the public this week after being closed for over two months amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Bulgaria, May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Blue-eyed Chiafa and his sister Narcis, who are a genetic variation of the better-known orange Bengal tigers, arrived from Hungary in January, chief keeper Radko Sertov said.

“People can already see our new residents when they go outside, as visitors are still not allowed indoors due to the epidemic situation,” Sertov told Reuters, adding that the tigers made their first outdoor appearance in the Bulgarian capital on Monday.

“They now weight around 150 kg but a male adult can get up to 200 kg.”

Sertov said the tigers’ rations had been reduced to 2.5 kg of meat a day, about half the usual amount, because they had recently became overweight.

“It’s so easy to feed them, they like the food we are offering them,” he said. “They eat meat, mainly chicken, beef or horse meat. They also eat some fish once a week.”

He described Chiafa as an “extremely calm animal” who was doing well, while Narcis was still getting used to her new life at the Sofia Zoo, the oldest and largest in the Balkans with around 2,000 animals including two other tigers.

“She is a bit more nervous and shy and she needs a little more time to adapt,” Sertov said. “She is more active at night when there are not many people around.”

Less than 4,000 tigers live in the wild, down from 100,000 at the start of the 20th century. Poaching, deforestation and over-hunting of their prey have reduced their numbers.

According to conservationist organization WWF there are about 2,500 Bengal tigers in the wild, mostly in India.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Giles Elgood

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