Three male Amur tiger cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium during the early morning hours of Apr. 21, 2015. The newborn cubs, weighing only 2.5 lbs., were initially monitored by the animal care team using a remote feed from a camera mounted in the den.
The decision was made to hand rear the cubs after the female failed to show maternal care and nurse them. They are currently in an incubator in the Animal Health Center and it is unknown when Zoo visitors will be able to see them.
“We are always cautiously optimistic about the survival of fragile newborns,” said President/CEO Tom Stalf. “But the cubs seem to be thriving under the 24-hour care provided by our animal specialists and veterinarians.”
These are the first cubs for ten-year-old female, Irisa, although the Zoo team and the Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) had hoped for years she would reproduce and pass on her valuable genes. This is the third litter sired by eleven-year-old, Foli, since 2012.
Gestation for tigers is about 3.5 months which means the cubs were conceived just weeks before Foli left the Columbus Zoo on Feb. 25 for another facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. A new male tiger, Jupiter, arrived at the Columbus Zoo on Mar.19. Jupiter was born at the Moscow Zoo in 2007 and came to the Columbus Zoo from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Both males were moved at the recommendation of the Species Survival Plan in an effort to maintain a sustainable population of tigers in human care.
With the addition of the three cubs there are currently 10 Amur tigers at the Columbus Zoo including four cubs born in 2013 and their mother, Mara.
The tiger is the largest of all cat species. Native to Asia there are six living and three extinct subspecies of tiger. Currently there are fewer than 150 Amur tigers in 50 AZA institutions in North America. These tigers are considered pedigreed since they have a known ancestry and breeding recommendations to maintain genetic diversity are managed by a studbook.
Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), also historically referred to as Siberian tigers, are critically endangered; fewer than 400 individuals are believed to exist in the forests of the Russian Far East. Their populations are dwindling due to overhunting of prey species such as deer and wild boar, habitat loss, and poaching for skins and body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine. Humans directly cause 75 to 85 percent of tiger deaths.
The Columbus Zoo is a long-term supporter of the Siberian Tiger Project which was established in 1992 by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Zoo’s funding contributes to improving human-tiger conflict mitigation, increasing capacity for young Russian scientists, and biological monitoring of tigers through camera trapping, track surveys and radio collaring.
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