Liberty and Akasha have returned to center stage. These delightful older showgirls, both Bengal tigers, have proved that they still have what it takes to perform.
After a long hiatus, Tiger Splash at Out of Africa Wildlife Park officially re-opened Saturday, Oct. 27, at the park's new locale in Camp Verde.
Liberty and Akasha are seven years old, 35 years in human terms, and are proving to be mentors to newcomers 2-year-olds, Rejoice, Jubilee, Harvest and Harmony, all Siberian tigers.
Akasha, in fact, is the "premier jumper and performer" and Liberty has always been a natural in the water, said owner Dean Harrison (pictured).
Both tigers were showcased performers in the old show, when Out of Africa was located near Phoenix.
Liberty first came to the Harrisons after having been a "petting tiger" at malls and county fairs, a job she outgrew. Both she and Akasha are big girls, weighing in at a whopping 400-450 pounds.
"We drove to Nebraska to pick up Liberty. When she arrived, an hour later, she performed at Tiger Splash at the Fountain Hills facility," Harrison explained. "She was used to people and not afraid of the audience. Therefore, she can be herself."
Akasha was initially destined for a breeding program in Australia, but when the owner was unable to get appropriate permits, she joined the Harrisons and their many wildlife friends.
"She came and also began to play in Tiger Splash very quickly," Harrison said.
According to Harrison, tigers in captivity live to be 17-20 years old.
"Akasha and Liberty represent tigers in the wild who are losing their territory and their lives. They are ambassadors for those with no voice, the wild tigers and other animals of the world. They allow us as dominant creatures of the planet to see, to meet, to enjoy, to love and to care for the other creatures that need our help. Their world is diminishing and it is up to us to reverse the trend, if we wish them to stay on the planet. It is our duty and our responsibility. Their lives are in our hands," Harrison added.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park is the only one of its kind in Arizona, open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For park information, call (928) 567-2840.