I Made Artawa, 29, takes care of the Bengal tigers at Bali Safari and Marine Park in Gianyar, and says they’re like people: They know who’s good and who’s bad. He shared his day with Ashtra Effendy.
I wake up at 5am and start getting ready for the day. My wife gets breakfast ready for me and lays out my clothes. While she’s doing that I play with my baby boy; he’s only three months old. We’re still newlyweds, my wife and I, as we only married a year ago. She’s a great cook. For breakfast she makes me fish and rice with spinach.
We live close by the safari park and I leave home at 6am and go there. I pray and make offerings to God. I pray for my colleagues, and the tigers, that they will all be safe. Then I check the tigers’ enclosure, to make sure the cages are secure so that the animals have no chance of getting out and harming people. I clean up the area and start to prepare the tigers’ breakfast.
At 8am meat is delivered to our area. One tiger needs to be fed about 8kg of meat daily. They eat raw chicken and cow’s meat. They all eat the same, except for the cubs and any that are sick; they’ll need something else. You have to be very careful when feeding tigers because they can become very aggressive. If you look into their eyes when they’re eating they will roar at you and think you’re trying to take their food.
After the tigers are fed, around 9am, I check each animal’s condition to make sure they are all in good health. They are checked one by one, and I look to see if they have been injured, which can often happen when they’re playing together. If they do have wounds, I call the park’s veterinarian.
I stay at the tiger enclosure until lunchtime, watching the visitors. My favourite tiger is Dumar. When you get close to him he lets you know if he knows you or not, and he will approach you if he does. Tigers know which people are good and which are bad. They have a very strong instinct about that. Dumar is seven years old – an adult in tiger years. Tigers can live up to 20 years of age.
At 12pm I have lunch of rice and meat, but I’ll have fish if there is any. Then I go back to the enclosure and watch what’s going on until 4pm. I have to be there when there’s visitors present, to ensure nothing bad happens.
I’ve been at the park for three years and before that I was a keeper at a zoo. When I started out with tigers, I was afraid – because they’re tigers, after all. But you have to get to know them, and when you do, there’s nothing to fear.
Visitors love having their photograph taken with our tiger cubs. They’re under a year old and don’t pose a danger to anyone. But if they’re older than that, they would be too dangerous.
At 4pm the tigers eat again, and during this feeding visitors can watch. Bengals are the only big cats that can swim and that’s why there’s a little river around their enclosure.
We close up at 5pm, and I check the area again to make sure it’s secure and safe.
I pray again before I go home. I say thank you to God for giving me a day that was peaceful and everything was right. I go home at 5:30, and it’s actually hard to leave the tigers, especially the cubs, but they sleep a lot anyway.
I play with my son in the evening and have dinner with my wife later on. I talk to her about how she’s feeling, how her day was. Having a quality conversation with your wife is important before you go to sleep each night. At 9pm my eyes are giving me a cue to sleep and my mind is filled with thoughts of my tigers.