Tiny Tiger Trio
07/24/2009 5:58 PM
The big cats at the Great Plains Zoo have been joined by three little ones. The birth of three rare Amur tigers is a big deal for the community and the rest of the world.
The cubs were born just last weekend. Their mother, a six-year-old named "Vika," delivered a litter of six cubs, but three didn't survive. "Vika" is doing fine, but her difficult delivery means the zoo staff will have to be surrogate parents to her healthy newborns.
It's a feline feeding frenzy at the Great Plains Zoo. The cubs little mouths are wide open, even as their eyes are still shut.
"They're absolutely wonderful eaters, a mother couldn't be prouder," Veterinary Technician Shelley Harpster said.
The cubs, a male and two females, require round-the-clock attention. Zookeepers and a vet tech feed the little tigers their formula six times a day. In-between feedings, the cubs are kept in a private room to rest up. Colored collars help identify each one. But less than a week old, they're already developing their own personalities.
"They all like their bottle temperatures a little different, they all like to be held a little different and we'll actually see more of that the older they get," Harpster said.
The zoo staff has to walk a fine line in providing the proper care and attention for the cubs without suppressing their wild side.
"We're not petting them, we're massaging them, just like mom would. When they're nursing, mom would groom them and we also have to pretend as if we're also grooming them," Harpster said.
But despite the need to maintain a healthy detachment from the tiger cubs, the zoo workers admit it's hard not to form an emotional bond to this rare breed.
The cubs won't be on public display for several more months. However, people will have a chance to bid on naming rights to the cubs during the zoo's "Jungle Jubilee" next Thursday.