By Allison M. Heinrichs
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s newborn Amur tiger cub revealed a secret today — it’s not a girl, it’s a boy.
“They’re so small that sometimes everything’s not visible right away,” said Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the zoo.
Zoo staff have been bottle-feeding the cub because his mother, Toma, has not been showing an interest in feeding him since a few hours after he was born on Sunday. Zoo keepers inspected Toma today and found that she isn’t producing any milk to feed the newborn.
Officials had been worried that Toma might have an infection or other complication but didn’t discover anything to indicate why she wouldn’t be producing milk.
“What we’ll do over the course of the next few days is continue to have them in the den together, continue to have Toma near the cub, with the cub,” Baker said. “At the same time we’ll try to stimulate milk production and hopefully her maternal instincts will kick in.”
Zoo staff are giving Toma oxytocin, a hormonal drug also used in people.
Amur, or Siberian tigers, are critically endangered, with less than 600 known of in zoos and the wild.
The cub’s eyes still haven’t opened and he has orange-and-white fur with black stripes. When he is removed from the den for feeding, zoo staff keep him on a heating pad with stuffed animals. The zoo doesn’t plan to name him for several weeks, so for now the staff is calling him “Baby Tiger.”
“Is the cub going to be okay? That’s still something that’s yet to be determined,” Baker said. “Was there something that made Toma abandon the cub, something that she can sense that we can’t, some unseen birth defect? We don’t know.”