Two tiger cubs die at zoo
August 4, 2009
Two Amur tiger cubs have died at the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History.
The zoo announced two weeks ago the arrival of three Amur tiger cubs. Animal care staff continue to provide constant care for the lone surviving cub.
The births of the cubs occurred from the evening of July 18 through morning of July 19. For six-year-old “Vika,” her first experience giving birth resulted in an uncommonly large litter of six cubs, which brought problems birthing them. Two cubs were stillborn; a third cub died a few days later of a ruptured bowel. Last week, two other cubs died, one of fluid in the lungs and abdomen, the other of kidney failure. The surviving female cub is doing well.
The heroic efforts of zookeepers and the zoo’s vet tech began the night the cubs were born, when they monitored the birth through video cameras throughout the night. It became clear after the last cub was born that, following the strenuous labor, Vika was unable to care for her cubs. Zookeepers rushed in to dry and warm the newborn cubs, some of them still wet and cold.
The zoo’s animal care staff remained on duty around the clock, watching the cubs and feeding them every four hours. They also cleaned and massaged the cubs, to simulate what a mother Tiger would do with her tongue.
“We had high hopes for the cubs – not just for the fun it would be for us to watch them grow up, but for their importance to the Amur Tiger population worldwide,” said Elizabeth Whealy, president and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo. “Our animal care staff has worked tirelessly to ensure the cubs received the best care possible. Unfortunately, sometimes nature takes its own course.”
Amur Tigers are extremely endangered; fewer than 400 Amur Tigers survive in the wild. There are only 133 Amur Tigers in captivity in Association of Zoos and Aquarium accredited zoos in the country. Vika and her mate were among only 15 pairs recommended for breeding this year. The remaining cub is one of just four surviving Amur Tiger cubs born in U.S. zoos this year.
The zoo has set up a memorial fund for the cubs; the proceeds will be used to purchase special “enrichment items” such as boomer balls and toys for the zoo’s Big Cats. Those who would like to contribute can contact the zoo at 367-8313, or at www.greatzoo.org.