Minnesota Zoo hoping for cubs, but no sparks yet between tiger and her chosen mate

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Minnesota Zoo hoping for cubs, but no sparks yet between tiger and her chosen mate

Zoo is hoping for cubs, but no sparks yet between Anya and mate

By Jessica Fleming
Updated: 03/11/2009 11:54:40 PM CDT

Anya, the new cat in town, has shown a little interest in Molniy, but not enough.

The pair of Siberian tigers have a few more months to get, ahem, closer before keepers at the Minnesota Zoo lose hope they’ll see tiger cubs this year.

Anya came from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio a few months ago as part of a North American breeding program that brings together tigers from different zoos to achieve maximum genetic diversity.

“It’s computer dating for animals,” said Northern Trail supervisor Diana Weinhardt. “Except they don’t have any say-so over who we pick.”

Anya won’t be exhibited until late spring, when the breeding season is over — or longer if she gets pregnant. The Apple Valley zoo last had baby Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, in May 2004, when twins Lana and Nika were born. The twins were transferred to a zoo in Nebraska before Anya arrived. The Minnesota Zoo currently has six Siberian tigers, which are endangered.

After a mandatory 30-day quarantine, keepers gave Anya a few weeks to adapt to her new environment and human handlers. Then, they introduced her to Molniy through a “howdy door,” a mesh wire barrier between their individual tiger cages.

When Anya started to show signs of being in heat, they put the prospective mates in the same cage for a few short periods, but it seemed Anya wasn’t in the mood.

“He did show some curiosity, but she was not receptive to him,” Weinhardt said. “She wasn’t flipping her tail at him or doing all those things that girl tigers do to woo a mate — basically, being a little tart.”

Weinhardt said Anya probably was still a little off-kilter from the move. Keepers have high hopes for the next session.

“As far as animal introductions go, it went pretty well,” Weinhardt said.

The zoo’s Ron Tilson oversees the tiger-breeding registry, also known as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Tiger Species Survival Plan.

Even though the zoo has a national breeding expert, it is notoriously hard to breed tigers. About 35 percent of pairs matched up in captivity end up having a cub, Weinhardt said.

Female tigers have a 25- to 27-day breeding cycle, and they generally don’t breed after late spring. Weinhardt said the zoo will wait two or three more cycles before giving up on the pair for this year.



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