Tiger cub can stalk, play, obey
By Carol Bicak
WORLD HERALD STAFF WRITER
You could hear her before you saw her. The Henry Doorly Zoo’s two-month-old Amur tiger cub was introduced to the public Friday morning with a weigh-in at the Cat Complex.
As the zookeepers brought her out, the cub made her presence known with shrill screeches and baby roars. But once on the scale, she was a doll. Her weight: 7.58 kilograms or 16.7 pounds.
That’s exactly where she should be, said Rocky Verbrigghe, assistant supervisor of cats and bears.
He also pointed out that her mom, 15-year-old Tiksi, has been an exemplary mother. “She’s caring for her cub extremely well. She’s doing everything we hoped she’d do.”
Especially important, Verbrigghe said, is how clean Tiksi is keeping the cub. It helps ward off bacteria and parasites that could cause illness.
After the weigh-in, the cub was put back in an enclosure with Tiksi, so visitors could watch them interact. Verbrigghe said another sign the cub is developing perfectly is her play — she frolics in the small pond in the exhibit, she chases her mom’s tail and she stalks. He said she also obeys her mother by getting down when she signals there might be danger.
The cub was born June 22. Her father is Yorgi, 14. This is the first cub born at the Omaha zoo for both parents.
Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are orange with black stripes and originate in southeastern Siberia.
They are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List for Endangered Species. This cub and her parents are part of the Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan, a conservation program intended to keep the captive population as genetically healthy as possible.
This cub is the 12th born in the program in 2010. The program has been so successful that the captive population is now more genetically diverse than the wild population.
The captive cats also are healthier, said veterinarian Doug Armstrong, director of animal health at the zoo.
The cats in the wild are coming down with a fatal neurological disease that hasn’t been diagnosed yet, he said. A disease like that isn’t a big deal in a healthy population of animals, but in an endangered and dwindling group, it can be devastating and could potentially wipe them out.
While the biggest threat is poaching, Armstrong said, getting a handle on this disease, which could possibly be canine distemper, is essential. Captive cats can be immunized against that disease.
While there is a healthy and expanding population of Siberian tigers in captivity, they can’t be reintroduced into the wild until the significant threats are nullified, he said.
The cub’s parents come from internationally mixed and healthy gene pools. Dad was born in Moscow, mom in Toronto. They have been bred at other zoos before coming to live in Omaha.
Verbrigghe said the cub will be highly sought-after for breeding once she reaches sexual maturity around four years of age. He calls her “a genetic gold mine.”
This cub doesn’t have a name yet, and the public is invited to submit entries in a naming contest. The entry box is in front of the Amur tiger display. Submissions will be accepted through Sept. 10.