You too, can swim with a tiger!

2:39 PM, Oct 4, 2010   |    comments
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Dade City, Florida --  Sure, there's swimming with stingrays or dolphins, but just imagine what your friends would say if you took a dive with a tiger...

It can happen.

"No one else I know does it," smiled Kathy Stearns, director of the Dade City Wild Things animal sanctuary.

A couple of months ago, a zoo in Oklahoma City donated a three week old white tiger to the sanctuary. Stearns picked up the tiny animal she named Diamond and flew her back to the Bay area.

Photo Gallery: Swimming with a white tiger cub!

"She had a little bag, but I ended up holding her because everybody, including the pilot, they were so excited to see her," said Stearns.

From the very beginning, Stearns says she was very hands on with Diamond.

"She's one of those rare things.  She's real sweet natured, gentle.  She's a talker.  She loves to talk, she does a lot of grunting noises," smiled Stearns.

Like most tiger cubs, Diamond likes to eat and play, but she's also got another love... the water!

"It's really great, she loves it.  She thinks it's a lot of fun," said Stearns.

The 20-pound tiger cub has mastered the art of "tiger" paddling in the sanctuary's backyard pool.

"She's so great about keeping her claws in.  She doesn't extend, even when she's reaching up to you, so she's really gentle in the water," explained Stearns.

Diamond was so gentle with her trainers, Stearns decided to open up this once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with a tiger to the public.

"We had a lady come in and it was her 29th birthday and she had a ball," said Stearns.

On Friday morning, Diamond was back in the water, this time swimming with Stearns and the sanctuary's interns Ryan Godfrey and Sam Rydzik.

"It was really great. She came right up to us, laid with us, relaxed," said Rydzik.

The opportunity is going to last forever, because once Diamond hits 40 pounds, law forbids the public from interacting with animals like her.

Not only does she love to swim, she loves to eat and the roughly 20-pound cub is starting to pack on the pounds.

If you're over 18 and have $200 to spare, the opportunity to take a half hour dive with Diamond is yours.

Stearns says the money will go back into the sanctuary to help care for Diamond and her new animal family.

Poll: Should wild animals be held in captivity?


352-567-WILD (9453)

Gift Shop / Ticket Sales: 9 AM - 5 PM
Zoo Tours: 9:30 AM & 2:00 PM











Laura Kadechka, 10 News

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