(Pittsburgh) (November 2017)—The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is thrilled to announce the birth of two rare, endangered Amur tiger cubs.
The cubs, one male and one female, were born on September 25 to ten year old mom, Terney. The cubs were Terney second litter. As keepers and veterinary staff kept watch over the new family via an infrared camera hidden within the nesting box, they noticed that Terney was not showing any interest in her cubs and wasn’t making any attempts to care for them. While she initially cleaned them after birth, she didn’t nestle up to them to keep them warm or allow them to begin nursing. Cubs require extensive maternal care when they are born so if they are neglected, their chance of survival is drastically reduced.
The very difficult decision was made to remove the cubs to save their lives. “Removing the cubs from their mother is the last thing that we want to do,” says Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, Director of Animal Health at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “But after witnessing Terney’s prolonged disinterest and lack of nursing, we knew that we didn’t have a choice.”
At just 24 hours old, the cubs were brought to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s Animal Care Center. As with all newborn tiger cubs, the siblings could not regulate their body temperature on their own so the veterinary team corrected their hypothermia and placed them in incubators to keep them warm until their own bodies took over thermoregulation.
During the first week at the Animal Care Center, the veterinary and keeper teams provided around-the-clock care for the little ones – closely monitoring their vitals, blood glucose levels and formula intake. During the first few months, the cubs received a specialized canine milk replacer for proper nutrition and development. At about six weeks of age, in addition to the milk formula, the young cubs were introduced to meat. While initially the female ate her portion quickly and her brother dined more slowly, both now eat their meatballs with gusto.
Currently, the young siblings are living at the Animal Care Center. They are playing, eating and learning to grow up together – with the help of Zoo staff and keepers, of course.
“Though we had to step in and become a substitute mom for these little guys, we don’t cuddle them like a domestic kitten or puppy,” says Dr. Sturgeon. “We want them to grow up as tigers. We provide them with plenty of toys such as cardboard boxes to destroy, or straw and towels to make little nests for themselves. Most importantly, they have each other.”
At about nine weeks of age, the cubs will be moved to one of the cat buildings, where they will learn to acclimate to cooler temperatures and will be able to see, hear, and smell other cats.
“Our goal is to get them back with their mother or a substitute mother,” says Kathy Suthard, Lead Carnivore Keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “We are considering two options at this time. When the cubs are about 12 weeks of age, we will slowly begin introducing them to Toma, our matriarch tiger. Toma is a great mother and has successfully raised several litters. We will also explore the possibility of putting the cubs with their mom too.”
The Pittsburgh Zoo is known for its success in reintroducing youngsters back to their families. In 2011, a baby tiger was successfully reintroduced to her family after spending time at the Animal Care Center, recuperating from a life-threatening illness. And Ivan, our five year old gorilla, was also successfully reintroduced to his troop after his mom, Moka, suffered from mastitis and stopped nursing him.
“These Amur tiger cubs are precious to all of us. Listed as endangered in the wild, these cubs are genetically valuable to the future of their species as well,” says Dr. Sturgeon. “Our goal right now is to raise two healthy young cubs who will one day have families of their own.”