White Bengal tigers on display at Emerald Coast Zoo

Ashleigh Wilde
Crestview News Bulletin

CRESTVIEW — The Emerald Coast Zoo recently acquired two new white tigers.

Putnam and Purusha, two male white Bengal tigers, were given to the zoo by a friend of zoo owner, Rick de Ridder. At 600 pounds and well over 6 feet tall when they stand on their hind legs, the tigers are two of the biggest white Bengal tigers in the world.

“How lucky are we that we can have a place in Crestview that a guy like my tiger friend would let us have these tigers here,” de Ridder said. “To me that is just breathtaking that he trusts me with these cats here and he likes what we’re doing with the zoo.”

The new tigers are no strangers to the de Ridder family. De Ridder’s daughter Suzy posed for a picture with Purusha five years ago in which she held the then tiger cub.

“God makes it work out,” de Ridder said. “Here’s Suzy holding this tiger as a little baby and God knew that this cat was going to end up with little Suzy for the rest of his life.”

Suzy couldn’t believe that one of the giant tigers that is now at home at the family zoo was the same tiny cub she held and played with years ago.

“It’s crazy that it’s the same tiger but it’s pretty cool,” Suzy said. “It’s crazy that they can grow like that because I was like the same size.”