Washington Park Zoo Wednesday had a new tenant.
It was a 10-year-old female Royal Bengal tiger, a gift from the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus which is giving performances at the El Paso Coliseum. Final shows are set for Thursday afternoon and night.
Bryce Lammert, superintendent of city parks, made the arrangements with the circus which led to the gift.
“We wanted a tiger for the new lion and tiger grotto we are building at Washington Park, I thought first I might be able to buy one from the circus but they were extremely kind and offered to donate one to the City of El Paso,” Lammert said.
Unusual circumstances surround the gift of the tiger whose name is “Lee.” It has an injured tail, the result of a celebrated tiger fight in New York City’s Madison Square Garden last spring. Johnny, still in the big tiger act with the circus, turned on a female tiger, Ila, while the big cats were going through a performance. Before attendants could stop the fight, Ila was killed and lee suffered a badly clawed tail.
“We have had to keep the tiger out of the act until the tail heals. It has been three months since the accident and Lee was getting a little fidgety. When we heard that the El Paso zoo had no tiger we felt the animal would be a nice way to show our appreciation for the fine way we have been treated here.” Ken Mayo, circus public relations director, said.
Lammert said the tiger is conservatively valued at $3,000. It was brought to the United States from Germany in 1947 as a cub by Rudolf Mathis, then an animal trainer with Ringling Circus.
Actual presentation of the tiger Wednesday was made by famed veterinarian, Dr. J. Y. Henderson, the “doctor” for Ringling’s animals. Henderson, a graduate of Texas A&M, has achieved international fame for his book, “Circus Doctor” which has been translated into 14 languages.
“I’m sorry to see Lee go. He was the best trainer in the tiger act. His tail will heal up before long and you’ll have a first-class tiger,” Henderson said.
Aiding circus and city employs in making the transfer to the Washington Park zoo was Joe Horwath, currently the tiger trainer with the circus. On hand for the presentation was Ernest Craigo, alderman in charge of parks.