Baby Tiger Chows & Chuffles
08/06/2009 5:55 PM
The hopes of animal lovers around the world rest in the tiny paws of a baby Amur tiger at the Great Plains Zoo. The rare cub is the sole survivor of a litter of six delivered last month.
There was great sadness and disappointment at the zoo last week when two of the three surviving cubs died. But that grief can’t get in the way of the constant care required to ensure a long, healthy life for the last remaining cub. The mother tiger couldn’t care for her babies because of the stressful birth. But the zoo’s efforts at surrogate motherhood are paying off.
The cub’s eyes, closed since birth, are starting to open. She’s also doubled in size, weighing in at a robust five-plus pounds. The Great Plains Zoo is pleased at how their baby tiger is growing.
“She appears to be healthy. She’s eating well and she’s sleeping well and of course, that’s what newborns do,” Zoo President Elizabeth Whealy said.
A zookeeper has been hand-rearing the cub ever since she was born. Her six-a-day feedings have been decreased to five. She’s even started to snort-out sounds called “chuffles,” a kind of “hey, how are you doing,” in tiger talk.
“And it’s simply the way they greet each other and of course, all animals have their own language with each other, and so it’s good for us to see those very natural behaviors in this young cub,” Whealy said.
To ensure that she becomes a healthy, grown up big cat, the zoo staff provides round the clock care.
“And it’s going to be a lot of fun to see her transformed from little, tiny newborn to rambunctious cub and hopefully someday to a mom of her own litter,” Whealy said.
With only a few hundred Amur tigers in the entire world, the fate of just one little cub can have a big effect on this endangered species.
Naming rights to the cub were awarded last week during an auction. The zoo expects to announce the cub’s name soon. It’s also set up a fund in memory of the five cubs that didn’t survive to buy toys for the zoo’s big cats.