Canada's Tiger King, without all the nasty stuff: VIDEO
Updated: Feb 6
Long before the "Tiger King" was even a twinkle in some producer's eye, Albert Frederick Hans Oeming was known as Edmonton's "Noah of the North". The wrestler turner zookeeper operated a massive property that was home to hundreds of animals including rhinos, hippos, zebras, and yes, big cats
Oeming once owned and operated the largest private animal collection in the world, located just East of Edmonton, Alberta, on his 500-hectare compound.
The Edmonton native started out as a professional wrestler back in the 1940's before there was such a thing. as a professional wrestler.
Al Oeming's career began to take off in Harlem, New York, considered by some to be the "birthplace" of the wrestling entertainment industry.
Oemings, going by “Nature Boy” in the ring, wasn't only focused on pro wrestling. The young Canadian was also studying ornithology.
He completed his master’s degree in zoology and returned to Edmonton. That's where he and lifelong friend and fellow wrestler Stu Hart started Stampede Wrestling in the late 1940s.
Oeming eventually sold his half of Stampede Wrestling. He used the money to build the "Alberta Game Farm" located 20 kilometers out of Edmonton.
Oeming's game farm opened in 1959. At its peak, thousands visited every weekend to see the approximately 800 species and 3000 animals that lived there.
The farm was seen by many as a vast improvement over other zoos of the period. The pro wrestler turned zoo keeper took great pride in its wide open spaces and large compounds. The facility even had breeding programs for rare exotic animals.
The Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductee was a popular figure in Canada. He was the subject of many positive documentaries, even becoming the Edmonton Zoological Society’s inaugural president
Check out this link to a short Newsreel produced by Pathe' in 1963
In the 1970s, the Alberta Game farm was home to mountain gorillas, white-tailed and white-bearded gnus, a breeding herd of rocky mountain goats, Dall Sheep, bison, caribou, a gayal, polar bears, deer, white rhinos, pygmy hippos, zebras, tapirs, Baikal seals, elephants horses, giraffes and many other species including big cats.
Cheetahs were the park's most popular attraction. Oeming even did wildlife shows touring with his pet cheetah, named Tawana.
But times change and so did attitudes.
In the early '80s, feeling pressured, Oeming sold the exotic species.
The Alberta Game Farm was rebranded with a new name.
Now known as Polar Park the 500-hectare facility featured cold-climate animals. The park continued operating for another 16 years but dwindling attendance along with continued pressure from animal rights groups left Oeming no choice but to close the park in 1998.
Al Oeming, died on March 17, 2014, in Edmonton, Alberta, 88 after undergoing heart surgery.
The video featured in this article was taken in the mid-1970's. It shows exotic animals in the snow.