“Hello, Peter Luger? Yes, I need a porterhouse steak delivered, as rare as you can get it.”
Recently, an Untapped reader asked us to help him find a tiger in New York City. If anybody knew the answer, it would be us, they wrote. Other specifications: they wanted it alive, stuffed would be second best. Absolutely “no half tigers,” the reader requested.
Naturally, our first impulse was to check the Central Park Zoo, but as it turns out, Central Park is only home to one big cat: a snow leopard. Close, but not a tiger. So we checked with the Bronx Zoo, which is much larger. Et voila! A tiger, a lion, and even a bear. Oh, my!
But still, we got the impression that what our reader wanted wasn’t just to see a tiger, but to borrow one, or rent one at the very least. You know, to hang out with, Hangover-style. (Or like Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, though Kat’s cat is actually a leopard, not a lion–and even then, there’s a pretty serious mix-up involved). Yet as it turns out (not unexpectedly), “it is unlawful to possess a wild animal,” according to New York State law.
We felt flattered (and a little unsettled) that apparently our readers now were assuming that we had black market connections, or at least knowledge thereof. So we looked into it, and we are glad to report that we now know where you can rent yourself a tiger (or several other types of big cat) for a few hours. There’s just one problem: it’s in Florida.
Yes, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation will rent you a tiger, a panther, a camel, a monkey, or a kangaroo, if you’ve got the dough to back up your request. According to their website, they even rent you the handler (so you don’t get mauled) and give you informational literature about the animal you’ve rented. When we gave them a call, the ZWF didn’t quite buy our story that we were looking for a tiger for our independent movie, so we weren’t able to get any definite price quotes. However, we did find out that their oldest tiger, who’s three, doesn’t do music videos anymore (we were a little afraid to ask why not) and that none of their animals can be rented out-of-state. Stumped again.
Apparently, in 2003, one savvy New Yorker named Antoine Yates managed to find himself a tiger (named Ming) as well as an alligator, which he kept in his Harlem apartment at the Drew Hamilton Houses (more specifically, the complex on 141st street). But that only lasted until Ming attacked him for getting in the way of his hunt (the tiger was trying to eat Yates’s house cat). Talk about a nasty roommate.
As far as we can tell, there’s no real way (and especially none that we would advocate) to obtain a tiger in NYC. Perhaps the best option for our curious reader would be to visit the Explorer’s Club, which houses real (but stuffed) leopards and lions obtained on various expeditions by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Edmund Hillary. Or you can always pay a visit to the African Mammals hall in the Museum of Natural History on 81st and Central Park West.