An Amur tiger cub who spent the past few weeks in the zoo’s veterinary hospital is ready to rejoin her family.
The 14-week old female, who doesn’t yet have a name, was removed from the tiger den when an abscess near the base of her skull became infected, making her lethargic and unresponsive. After several weeks of treatment, the 21-pound cub is healthier than ever and has become the most rambunctious member of her litter. [click to continue…]
Our Amur tiger cubs made a brief public appearance last week, meeting local reporters and a few lucky zoo visitors who happened to be passing by. The boy and the girl are growing quickly, but are still a little too young and wobbly to be out in their yard full-time. Our third cub is receiving medical care for a congenital abscess.
The cubs’ mother, Toma, is doing a great job rearing the babies. This is her third litter, and she’s a been a very attentive and doting mom.
Well, the cubs have officially seen us and also acknowledged us.
They have been venturing into the outside area of their holding room a lot more during the past few days. We (the keepers) sit quietly and observe. Toma is very familiar with us and doesn’t mind that we are watching. Her calm and ease must be felt by the cubs. They look at us but don’t really pay much attention. If Toma walks away, then their confidence level quickly drops and we may be greeted with a quiet hiss. One of the cubs came over to the water dish today and took a few sips. That’s the first time we had seen this! There is lots of development going on now.
We are now able to see differences in their stripe patterns enough to tell them apart. The biggest cub has a calligraphy style “W” over the left eye. It appears be a male. The second cub has a heart shaped stripe over each eye, and the third cub has a checkmark-style stripe (similar to the Nike logo) over the right eye.
What a surprise for us this morning! When we arrived and tuned in to “tiger cam” the nest box was empty. Then we looked at the camera outside of the nest and there were the three cubs curled up together sleeping in the straw. They are now comfortable being out of the nest for extended periods. This also gives the keepers the opportunity to get to see the cubs in person. We can see them from the viewing window as they spend time in this big room that houses their nest box. We are trying to identify the subtle differences we can see in each cub’s stripe pattern. This is how we will be able to tell the triplets apart. Right now, one of them has a noticeable rectangular stripe pattern on the base of his/her tail. They all appear to have heart-like patterns above their eyes very much like the one you can see on their older sister, Mara’s, face.
It’s day 24 and the cubs are all active and growing. Today, we could see that at least two of the cubs had their eyes opened. About 99 percent of our viewing of the babies is done through the infrared camera mounted inside the nest box. On a rare occassion, one or more of them will lay near the nest door and we can get a look at them. It’s a special treat when one of them gets brave enough to venture out of the nest box into the larger behind-the-scenes area. This usually doesn’t last long, though. The cubs quickly retreat to the security of the nest or mother Toma comes and carries them back inside.
Toma is a very happy and attentive mother to her three cubs, born on September 12. She is very patient, gentle, and nurturing. She also frequently bathes them when she isn’t sleeping or out of the den getting her own food.
We have seen a big improvement in her parenting skills since her first litter, and we’re very encouraged with the relationship she has created with her babies. Toma’s much more relaxed with her cubs, and she has shown no hesitation in caring for them since the moment of their birth. Our staff will continue to monitor the litter via video camera only to avoid disrupting the positive bonding happening between mother and offspring.
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is purring with good news! Toma, our 12-year-old female Amur tiger, successfully delivered three cubs on Sunday afternoon. This is Toma’s third time becoming a mother.
Using an infrared camera inside the den, keepers were able to monitor Toma and witness the birth of the cubs. The cubs are blind, toothless, and rely completely on their mother. The first cub was born at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday. The second cub was born at 2:47 p.m. and the third one waited a bit longer and was born at 4:59 p.m.
“This morning, the cubs are still nursing and mom is very relaxed. Never one to miss a meal, she came out for breakfast and then immediately went back in to nurse the cubs,” says Kathy Suthard, lead keeper. Toma and the cubs are being monitored in their den via an infrared camera. Visitors will be able to see this video on a monitor set up at the tiger window. The cubs will not be out on their yard until they are big enough to navigate the moat.
Several milestones must be reached to ensure successful birth and development of tiger cubs. Their first movements should be to nurse.
“We are very pleased because they are nursing and Toma is nurturing them, much like we saw with her first litter,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO. “We are monitoring Toma and the cubs to ensure this continues and that the cubs are gaining weight. Eventually we will have the opportunity to weigh them, but we will not interfere with her raising them as long as they are thriving.”
Amur tigers are classified as critically endangered, with an estimated population of less than 400 individuals remaining in the wild.
“The mortality rate of cubs in the wild and in captivity is between 30 and 40 percent and even though Toma has had two litters before, we are taking every precaution,” says Ken Kaemmerer, mammal curator. Toma delivered three cubs in August 2006. The smallest cub died five weeks later, but she raised the other two. In 2009, she gave birth to one cub, Billy Ray, which for reasons still unknown, she rejected him. He was hand-raised by staff. Billy Ray now lives with a female at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.
In late May, Toma entered her breeding cycle and successfully mated with 11-year-old Taiga. “A couple weeks later, we suspected that Toma might be pregnant based on her behavior,” says Mr. Kaemmerer. “She became very easy going and not as pensive as usual. A few days later, our suspicions were confirmed by the results of her hormone test.” The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, Toma and Taiga approved of the match. Average gestation for tigers is 103 days. Toma’s last two were 105 days. This one was 104 days.
Amur tigers were once called Siberian tigers because originally they were found throughout Siberia. They are now almost completely confined to the Far East portion of Asia along the Amur River. Amur tigers are the largest member of the cat family. They can grow to nearly four-feet-tall and more than seven-feet-long.