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Natasha looking out across the pond.
Natasha looking out across the pond.
Zoppa with the wobble bridge under construction.
Zoppa with the wobble bridge under construction.
Natasha testing out the new wobble bridge.
Natasha testing out the new wobble bridge.
Our team with the wobble bridge under construction.
Our team with the wobble bridge under construction.

Winter is usually the time to get cosy indoors, but not for our tigers Natasha and Zoppa – who have a new outside ‘gym’ to explore!

The new ‘gym’ is an exciting piece of equipment: a wobble bridge that extends across Natasha and Zoppa’s pond providing them with a unique form of exercise.

Who are Natasha and Zoppa?

Natasha and Zoppa came to us from AAP (Animal Advocacy and Protection) after they were rescued from a Spanish circus in 2018. These tigers had suffered poor living conditions where they were forced to perform for entertainment. Zoppa – whose name translates to ‘limp’ or ‘limping’ in Italian – is lame on her left leg. This is a permanent injury from her previous life. Visitors to the Sanctuary often notify us of Zoppa’s limp, but she has adapted to this injury, and it does not affect her activity levels or mobility.

Why did we decide to build the wobble bridge?

At the Sanctuary we work closely with an animal physiotherapist. Zoppa is one of the main patients due to her permanent disability. We had discussions about what sort of movements we should encourage Zoppa to complete to help strengthen her core muscles. This would relieve some of the pressure on the affected leg, slow down or avoid any deterioration, and make her feel more comfortable. These discussions led to the idea of constructing a wobble bridge for Natasha and Zoppa. The construction has been a collaboration between our animal care team and maintenance team.

How does the wobble bridge work?

The wobble bridge is a set of fixed posts and bracing bars on opposite sides of Natasha and Zoppa’s pond, connected by three long lengths of old fire hose (kindly donated by the fire services). Wooden boards are placed on top and bolted to the fire hose on each side, so the bridge sits just above the water surface level. As Zoppa walks across it, the movement in the bridge requires her to tense certain muscle groups to balance. When our animal carers place food halfway along the bridge, Zoppa will have to walk over it or swim across the pond and clamber up the side. Either way, it will be good physiotherapy for her.

When can visitors see the wobble bridge?

We can’t wait to find out how Natasha and Zoppa adapt to using their new bridge! You can see this exciting piece of equipment for yourself by visiting the Sanctuary. Or, catch a glimpse on Natasha and Zoppa’s live webcam.