Tiger cub greets patrons at Erie Zoo
By MIKE MACIAG
Published: August 11. 2010 1:15AM
A tiger cub was on the prowl Tuesday morning as visitors huddled around a cage to catch a glimpse of one of the Erie Zoo’s newest furry creatures.
Three-month-old Yuri had spent months in the zoo’s barn while zookeepers cared for him. The Amur tiger has now grown to 28 pounds and began making his first public appearances last week.
“He is one of the cutest animals that’s ever been born here,” said Erie Zoo President Scott Mitchell.
Anna, a 13-year-old tiger at the zoo, gave birth to Yuri on May 11.
Yuri’s birth marked the first time a tiger was born at the zoo in more than 20 years.
Zookeepers started bringing him outside in front of the public late last week. Patrons can now see him daily, from 10 a.m. to noon, inside the zoo’s leopard exhibit.
Yuri’s growth hasn’t come without a few bumps in the road.
Anna started carrying him around by biting down on the fur behind his shoulders when the cub was 5 weeks old.
One day, zookeeper Danielle Petrone noticed a small amount of blood on his back.
“I could see the wounds from her (Anna’s) teeth,” she said.
Zoo veterinarian P.J. Polumbo stitched up Yuri and returned him to his mother.
But in late June, Yuri starting bleeding again.
Anna had been carrying around Yuri and licking him with her tongue, which Mitchell said is like sandpaper.
“I think she loved him too much,” Mitchell said. “When she groomed and groomed him, she opened up the wounds.”
Yuri was stitched up a second time and has not yet been returned to his mother since.
Petrone has taken her place, feeding and training him throughout the day.
“Right now, I seem to be his chew toy,” Petrone said.
The biggest challenge, Petrone said, was getting Yuri to begin eating meat.
“I really didn’t think he was going to live because he wouldn’t eat anything,” she said.
Zookeepers struggled to get Yuri to eat meat until they discovered he would eat hamburger. Yuri now devours about 30 ounces of meat daily, Petrone said.
Mitchell said Yuri will eventually be transferred to another zoo, but not for at least a year.
Zoo patrons surrounded the cage Tuesday and snapped photos as Yuri clawed a few wood branches.
Linda Brunner, of Corry, had taken her grandsons Hunter and Jack to the zoo to see the otters exhibit. She said she was surprised when they spotted Yuri in the cage.
“He’s a cutie,” Brunner said. “We’ve never seen a baby in the zoo in a long time.”
Want to visit?:
Yuri, the Erie Zoo’s Amur tiger cub, can be seen daily from 10 a.m. until noon at the leopard exhibit, behind the main zoo building. Erie Zoo President Scott Mitchell said the tiger cub will eventually be viewable for longer periods after he becomes more comfortable outside. The zoo is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Also new at zoo:
Three rock hyraxes born Aug. 8 can also be viewed at the Erie Zoo. The zoo has eight rock hyraxes inside the display at the main zoo building.