If you've seen Napoleon Dynamite, you know that a liger is "pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed...bred for its skills in magic." (This isn't quite right, but more on that in a minute.)
Now the world has "liligers" too.
The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Okla. has announced the birth of three female liliger cubs. The recipe for a liliger is: 3/4 lion, 1/4 liger (which is already half tiger and half lion).
The cubs, born to lion father Simba and liger mom Akaria, are the third case of cross-breeding at the park, following the liger and the tiliger (three parts tiger to one part lion). They are the nation's first ever liligers.
AP Photo /Ilnar Salakhiev
"For 30 years since the liger has been in existence, everyone thought they were sterile," Garold Wayne's entertainment director, Joe Exotic, explained to ABC. "But we paired a baby liger and a baby white tiger male six years ago and came up with the first tiliger. That proved female ligers weren't sterile."
He continues, "We started out putting a lion and tiger together since birth to see if they would produce... All of this is done natural, none of this is done with artificial anything. It's simply just letting them grow up together."
There is a lot of controversy surrounding hybrid big cats, but Joe Exotic claims "[he] can prove that they are healthy...At just four weeks old, these liligers are pretty small, but...based on genetics, they could be the largest cat ever seen."
Exotic concludes, "If it wasn't for these private breeders, nothing like this would ever happen."
But there are many who argue that it should not happen. Napoleon Dynamite got the parts of the liger right, but they're not bred for their "skills in magic." Those opposed to crossbreeding would claim ligers, liligers, etc. are bred for exploitative purposes and consider it animal abuse, due to the common health problems.
"Since lions and tigers do not exist in the same areas, this is not something that happens in the wild," Big Cats Rescue explains on their site. "These cats suffer from many birth defects and usually die young. Because ligers are usually larger than either parent, it also puts the tigress at great risk in carrying the young and may require C-section deliveries or kill her in the process."
A commenter on Jezebel, where we originally learned of this story, spoke about Garold Wayne specifically, writing, "This place is NOT NOT NOT a respectable zoo. It's a wild animal park...It's a nonprofit but it's also a private venture that does as it pleases without a reputation for being kind to its animals. It's basically the Sea World of zoos."
PETA has compiled their own list of complaints against Garold Wayne, including their breeding practices. So yes, the liliger cubs are super adorable. But is cuteness alone worth the risks? It's for you to decide if you'll ultimately support Garold Wayne by spending your money there, but, at the very least, it's worth more research first, no?