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Watch Oakland Zoo’s Rescued Tiger Cub Learn How to Big Cat

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A medium-sized tiger cub lying inside an enclosure with the front half of her body resting on a Christmas tree.
Lily the tiger cub making friends with a Christmas tree at Oakland Zoo. (YouTube/ Oakland Zoo)

One of the lessons of Summer 2020 — and dear sweet Moses, there were a lot of lessons that summer — was that random untrained humans should not, under any circumstances, keep tigers. Not Joe Exotic, not Carole Baskin, and not the humans who, back in February, were found housing a severely injured tiger cub.

The big cat — now named Lily — had 10 leg fractures, 50% muscle atrophy and metabolic bone disease. Fortunately, the heroes of California’s Fish and Wildlife Department swept in, saved the little big cat and safely delivered her into the care of the Oakland Zoo. The vets at the zoo first gave Lily some much-needed medical assistance and calcium supplements, then went about coming up with new and inventive forms of enrichment to get Lily up and moving again. And they’ve had the good sense to document her progress on TikTok.

Within days of Lily’s first uneasy steps into professional care, the cub looked brighter, happier and already on the mend. Here she is playing with some strategically placed branches to keep her occupied while her body heals.

@oaklandzoo Rescued Tiger Update – To promote her healing, we are trying to limit some of her walking and movement while keeping her brain stimulated. However, this limits some of the enrichment we are able to give her. Luckily there are still plenty of things to keep her occupied. Young tigers like to practice their shredding techniques on branches and leaves! #tiger #rescue #notapet #notaphotoopp ♬ original sound – Oakland Zoo

Here she is with her tiny, derpy face glued to a documentary about tigers.

@oaklandzooher name is Lily. as a rescued tiger, Lily is now learning about her own kind.♬ original sound – Oakland Zoo

Vet Hospital Keeper Nikki popped up and gave us an important update a week ago, explaining that Lily was “opening up quite a bit, getting stronger every day [and] walking really well.” To prove it, the zoo quickly posted footage of Lily playing — with a tree stump and a pig foot popsicle (pigsicle?).

@oaklandzooMeat Lily!♬ Spring – Ningen

Over the weekend, Lily even got some quality play time with a bath tub and hose.

@oaklandzoodon’t go chasing waterfalls…unless you’re Lily. as Lily heals and gets stronger, we’re leveling up her enrichment to help build up her muscle strength and promote her species natural enjoyment for water.♬ original sound – Best parts of RnB

It’s clear that the Oakland Zoo is working wonders for this orange and black angel. The zoo says it plans to move her to a big cat facility once she’s fully healed.


The details of where exactly Lily was found are currently under wraps while her former owners are prosecuted. 2022’s Big Cat Public Safety Act banned private ownership and public contact with tigers and other big cats, and also introduced new restrictions on breeding and ownership.

To keep tabs on Lily as she makes progress, follow the Oakland Zoo’s TikTok, YouTube and Instagram accounts.

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