An extraordinary series of home videos have emerged showing for the first time the unusual upbringing of a Bengal tiger named Jonas, who went on to star in Ang Lee’s Hollywood film Life of Pi.
Brought to the Bowmanville Zoo in Ontario, Canada when he was just a few weeks old, Jonas was allowed to go home with his keepers at the end of the day so that he could be fed the required six to eight times a day.
In the videos, captured in 2008 but recently released with permission from the zoo’s owner, Jonas can be seen relaxing in front of the TV, being taught his position in the house’s pecking order and learning that a dustbuster is not a toy (video below).
Kevin Thatcher made the videos with his brother Jayson when he was an employee at Bowmanville, and Jonas himself was just seven months old.
Uploading the videos to YouTube under the profile KevinandJayson, Mr Thatcher wrote: “As a former employee of the Bowmanville Zoo in Ontario, Canada I have been given the permission, by the director and owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, to share my collection of unique videos that have been recorded throughout my career there.
“Most of the videos are of how we continue to care for the baby animals when we are not at the zoo… And we will also be uploading new footage as time passes on. Enjoy!”
Thanks to his friendly nature and extensive contact with humans from an early age, Jonas was able to land a major part in the 2012 Ang Lee movie Life of Pi, an adaptation of the Yann Martel novel of the same name.
The story features a boy spending 227 days on a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company, and Bowmanville Zoo owner Michael Hackenberger explained to the Hamilton Spectator: “In the movie whenever you see a tiger close to the actor, or a non-aggressive tiger, that’s Jonas.”
Mr Hackenberger said that while the Life of Pi was “very powerful” film, he had to briefly suspend his disbelief. “The biology is not believable where he’s trying to train the tiger (in the lifeboat). That’s not going to happen.”
Jonas was involved in filming for Life of Pi in the winter of 2011, but was sadly not around to see the film come to fruition.
That summer he became distressed, and vets found a previously unknown birth defect meant his liver had passed through his diaphragm. He died on the operating table, according to the Spectator.
“It was very tragic. He was a wonderful, wonderful tiger,” Mr Hackenberger said.