There’s a secret door of sorts at the Bronx Zoo’s Tiger Mountain exhibit. It’s called the training wall, and when opened there is a protective steel-lined mesh net allowing wild animal keepers like Lauren Del Grosso to safely get close to the tigers. 

Before the zoo opens to the public, Del Grosso calls for the zoo's 11-year-old, 415-pound Amur tiger named Julian.

What You Need To Know

  • The Bronx Zoo has 9 tigers between its Tiger Mountain and Wild Asia exhibits

  • There are just 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild worldwide

  • Tigers are endangered due to loss of habitat and human-wildlife conflict

  • The Wildlife Conservation Society has teams in areas where tigers live to help protect them

On this morning, it is time for some of the training and enrichment that tigers are offered at the zoo, operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society. It's done using different colored targets that look like buoys. The tigers are taught to recognize them at a young age. They allows keepers to position the animals so they can check their health and administer medications when necessary. 

"It's a really great tool to use so that way they are less stressed, they know what's going to happen, they trust you, you have a great relationship with them," said Del Grosso, who has been at the Bronx Zoo for nine years.

Her love for animals, particularly tigers, began at the age of three when she first saw one at a zoo on a trip with her mother. 

"Mom saw that we were just staring at each other in the stroller and so she took me out, I walked right up to the tiger, we sat there staring at each other, and from then on I was an animal enthusiast and wanted to work with tigers specifically," said Del Grosso. 

There are five tigers in the Tiger Mountain exhibit, nine in all at the Bronx Zoo. Worldwide, there are only 3,900 remaining in the wild — their numbers threatened by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.

The Wildlife Conservation Society works in areas where tigers live — such as the Russian Far East, Asia and India — to protect them. At the Bronx Zoo, visitors are educated about their fight for survival. 

“Just people coming to the zoo every single day knowing that these iconic species are definitely in need of help," said Del Grosso. "Hopefully, we can spark some inspiration within people coming to the zoo to help them, and inspire other people to help them."

She admits this can be potentially dangerous, but she says it's worth it to be around these animals she has been fascinated by since that early visit to the zoo. 

"Their majestic power, if that makes sense." Del Grosso replied when asked what she loves about tigers. “They are beautiful, but they are powerful.”