An 83-year-old tigon, the rare big cat hybrid, has now joined the extensive natural history collection at the Manchester Museum.
After 65 years in a Museum storeroom, the skin of Maude the tigon, who was a popular attraction at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo—which closed in 1977—has finally been used for a recreation of the creature by a master taxidermist, and gone on display near an Asian Elephant that also used to live at the zoo.
The tigon and her brother Kilou, offspring of a Manchurian Tiger father and African Lion mother, were popular attractions at the zoo. They were brought to this country by Gerald Iles, a Manchester University zoologist and manager of Belle Vue Zoo, in 1936.
Maude was described by Iles as being good-natured and quiet, and her popularity drew people from across the country.
Kilou died at age 10, and Maude died in 1949, at the age of 17. Her skin was donated to Manchester Museum by Iles, who had also provided many other animal specimens.
The hide remained there for 65 years unused, until recently. The time spent in storage had taken its toll on the skin, leaving it weakened and fragile. The taxidermist who carried out the preparation described it as both the most challenging and the most rewarding job of his career.
Despite being hybrids of the same two species, tigons are distinguished from the much-larger and more common liger, the offspring of a lion father and tiger mother. Most surprisingly, tiger-lion crosses have been found not to be sterile as with the vast majority of hybrid animals.
Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, said “Maude was far too beautiful and unusual an animal for her remains to be kept away in a storeroom.
“We want people to be able to admire her, and to hear more about the now-forgotten time when Manchester was home to such unusual animals. I hope that people will find her story as fascinating as we do.”
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