Bengal Tiger Encounter wows audience
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
Felicia Frisco — who says she is the youngest female trainer of tigers in the United States — has seen her fair share of encounters.
But on Wednesday at the Floyd County Fair in Charles City, she saw something she’s never seen before.
Frisco, who brought her rare and exotic Bengal tigers to the fair this week, wowed audience members in attendance as her animals performed stunts and natural maneuvers, all for a tasty reward.
Of course, this was done inside a cage, but Frisco still couldn’t believe a friendly monarch butterfly made its way inside the cage and wanted to play with her cats.
That’s a first for Frisco, who has been a tiger trainer since the age of 16 and has been around the beautiful creatures since birth.
“I’ve had bees once in a blue moon, but this butterfly would not leave them alone,” said Frisco, now 24.
Her kitties might have been a bit distracted at first. But the show must go on and as professionals that they are — Tora, Sarah, Kyla, Kalpah and Aslan — did not disappoint.
“It was attacking my tigers the entire show,” Frisco laughed.
The show is a lot more than just entertainment as Frisco’s tigers are “animal ambassadors to raise awareness,” she said.
Bottom line — tigers are dying at a rapid pace worldwide.
Frisco said it is estimated that by 2022 tigers in the wild could be extinct because of hunting and loss of habitat.
Frisco said China bred tigers just to slaughter them like cattle. When that practice was banned, the price of a dead, wild tiger skyrocketed. The demand was so huge the asking price vaulted up to half a million dollars. She equated the unnecessary carnage to elephants and the rabid greed to snare their coveted ivory tusks.
“A lot of people don’t know there’s less than 1,000 tigers in the wild today,” said Frisco.
Frisco also said palm oil plantations have stripped the tiger of its habitat, forcing the wild cats closer to villages where they are killed.
Frisco said she’s from ninth generation circus performers on her mother’s side.
“I was born into it. We had elephants and tigers. I took the path of tigers,” she said.
Frisco’s bond with her tigers is strong, and she has been with many of them since their birth.
“I know their moods. I spend a lot of time with them,” she said.
Her familiarity with the captive tigers allows Frisco to be able to gauge their behavior, something she’s obviously very good at.
“It’s being with them 24–7. I don’t ask them to do anything they don’t want to do,” Frisco said.
Frisco said she has never had a bad encounter with the tigers. That’s something she can’t say about dogs. Frisco was attacked by somebody’s pet dog around the age of 8 or 9. She said the vicious attack ripped her throat, face and legs. After leaving the hospital, she healed. But was attacked again two years later by another dog.
Frisco has been with the tigers since she was the age of 3. The comfortability around the animals allowed her to let them into her bed at night to sleep. Once a tiger reaches 100 pounds, Frisco said, you are no longer allowed to keep a tiger in your home.
It’s laws, though, that are trying to shut down her tiger show, she said, referring to legislation that would stop the show from going from city to city.
Frisco said that two or three years ago in Indiana she and her family encountered protesters who tried to disrupt her show, by opening gates or placing stickers on cages.
Frisco and her family travel about 15 weeks out of the year, mainly in the Midwest – states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. She also does shows in Georgia, close to one of her homes in Florida. She also has a home in Illinois.
The Bengal Tiger Encounter – which will be at the Floyd County Fair until Friday – just came from Tipton, where they did a three-day show. After Charles City, it’s on to Union Grove, Wisconsin, and the Racine County Fair. Then, Frisco said, it’s time to take a break.
The Bengal Tiger Encounter has three showings on Thursday, at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Each show lasts about 25 minutes. The free show does allow anybody the chance to feed the tigers with a meat treat on a stick for $5 after the show has concluded.
The tigers were born and bred in captivity and eat about 10-15 pounds of chicken or beef a day.
Frisco summed up her love of tigers.
“I trust them more than I trust people,” said Frisco.