Columbus Zoo welcomes new tiger cubs

Four Amur tiger cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on March 22 and 23. The first cub was born at approximately 5:30 p.m. and the last one arrived about eight hours later. The newborn cubs, which generally weigh just two to three pounds at birth, are being monitored by the animal care team using a remote feed from a camera mounted in the den. The cubs are currently being cared for by their mother.

“At this time Mara is taking excellent care of the cubs and all are nursing,” said Assistant Curator Adam Felts. “We are cautiously optimistic about the survival of all four cubs.”

As long as Mara is taking care of the cubs and they are observed nursing it could be days before veterinarians do the first well-baby exam and the gender of the cubs is determined, and several months before the cubs can be seen by guests in the outdoor habitat.

These cubs are the second for six-year-old female, Mara, and ten-year-old male, Foli. It is the second litter of Amur tigers ever born at the Columbus Zoo; the last litter was born in June 2012. Those two cubs were hand-reared after staff members became concerned about maternal care by the then first time mother, and loss of power from a storm interrupted the ability for staff to monitor the cubs utilizing the camera in the den.

These pairings of Mara and Foli were recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for tigers. The AZA, of which the Columbus Zoo is an accredited member, strives to maintain a sustainable population of tigers in North America.

“The birth of rare and endangered animals is always a cause for celebration,” said Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Stalf. “Through cooperative breeding programs in AZA zoos and the Columbus Zoo’s contributions to conservation programs saving wild tigers, we are making a difference.”

The tiger is the largest of all cat species. Native to Asia, there are six living and three extinct subspecies of tiger. Currently there are fewer than 150 Amur tigers in 50 AZA institutions in North America. These tigers are considered pedigreed since they have a known ancestry and breeding recommendations to maintain genetic diversity are managed by a studbook.

Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), also historically referred to as Siberian tigers, are critically endangered; fewer than 500 individuals are believed to exist in the forests of the Russian Far East. Their populations are dwindling due to overhunting of prey species such as deer and wild boar, habitat loss, and poaching for skins and body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine. Humans directly cause 75 to 85 percent of tiger deaths.

Each year the Columbus Zoo contributes $1 million of privately raised funds to more than 70 conservation projects in 30 countries.  The Zoo is a long-term supporter of the Siberian Tiger Project, which was established in 1992 by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Zoo’s funding contributes to improving human-tiger conflict mitigation, increasing capacity for young Russian scientists, and biological monitoring of tigers through camera trapping, track surveys and radio collaring.

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