“They just never stop moving,” laughs Kathy Suthard, lead mammal keeper at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. She shakes her head as she watches our five month old tiger cubs run around and pounce on each other in their behind-the-scenes rooms. “I wish I could bottle that energy.”
The young pair are intrigued by everything around them. They are full of curiosity and investigate every sound. They crouch down low as keepers approach and then pounce up as they walk by. It’s no wonder our keepers developed some great dodging skills avoiding.
The cubs love to pull toys away from each other and then run through their rooms as the other chases. They wrestle and roll around the floor, growling and trying to bite each other. But it is the way this brother and sister would be growing up with mom and their behaviors are instinctual. Some even mimic hunting skills which they would definitely need to use in the wild.
The cubs have been spending time at the Amur Leopard building where there is plenty of space for the rambunctious pair. They love to get outside and play in the Amur leopard yard when the leopards are inside. As they do inside, they play, wrestle, and chase each other.
But after they grow some, their next adventure will be tackling the tiger building and yard. This March they will be moving to the building where mom Terney and dad Pasha reside. Keepers say they don’t think Terney or Pasha will realize the new additions are family. Pasha will most likely chuff greetings to the cubs. Terney may show some curiosity at first, but then will most likely ignore them.
Even at a young age, our Amur tiger cubs are creating a major impact on the Amur tiger population. With only 124 Amur tigers in North American zoos (http://support.mnzoo.org/tigercampaign/tiger-ssp/) and up to approximately 450 left in the wild, our cubs are ambassadors for their cousins in the wild. They are genetically valuable which means they are also helping to introduce new genetics into the North American population.
Tigers are the biggest cats in the world and Amur tigers are largest of the subspecies. Adult males can weigh up to 600 lbs. and females up to 375 lbs. At one time, there were eight subspecies of tigers. Today, there are only five left as three subspecies are now extinct. Amur tigers were once referred to as Siberian tigers but renamed when their populations vanished entirely from Siberia. They mostly reside now in the Amur River region.
Amur tigers are endangered with only approximately 450 left in the wild. The biggest threats to tigers are the loss of their habitat from logging and human encroachment. Tigers are forced to travel longer distances to find food and will sometimes poach on domestic animals. Though efforts are underway to combat logging of tiger habitats, restoration of the areas is slow. Before making purchases of wood products check with the Forest Stewardship Council for information on finding forest friendly products.
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a leader in conservation efforts for all animals. We work to support numerous organizations around the world to help protect tigers. One of our partners, the 21st Century Tiger to form Wildcats Conservation Alliance is working to help protect Amur tigers in the wild.
The future of all the wonderful animal species is in our hands. It is up to each one of us to ensure that animal conservation efforts are strong enough to make a difference. It just takes one small change in our lives that will lead toward a better future for not only animals but our planet as well.