Happy news about animals
Two cuddly balls of fur currently hiding out at the Buffalo Zoo represent new hope for survival of the Amur tiger, whose fast-disappearing natural population is centered in the Russian Far East, half a world away.
The unnamed cubs, a male and a female, arrived late Oct. 6 or early Oct. 7, weighing in at about 2 pounds each, and are being attended to by their mother, Sungari, in a holding area out of public view, the zoo said.
It will be at least three months before the youngsters — the first tigers born at the zoo in nearly 20 years — will debut in the outdoor exhibit divided between Amur tigers and African lions.
Their births, the zoo said, were “a huge success” for the local breeding program and perhaps a harbinger of better times ahead for the critically endangered Amurs. They were called Siberian tigers before their main habitat receded to the Amur River Valley. They have not had much good news to purr about in recent times.
Just 350 to 450 are believed to remain in the wild, including a handful in North China, Manchuria and North Korea — leaving the subspecies’ long-term survival primarily in the hands of the world’s zoos.
The breeding of the Buffalo cubs’ parents, Sungari and Toma, was recommended under an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, designed to maintain a healthy and stable captive population of the animals.
The global plan started in 1982 with 83 captive Amurs and now includes about 160, making it the most extensively bred tiger subspecies. It is estimated that there are currently no more than around 255 tigers from three different subspecies in the captive breeding plan.
Over the years, the zoo has kept other tiger species, including Bengals and Sumatrans, but since the lion and tiger habitat was built in the 1980s, the collection has been limited to Amurs — the largest of tigers, weighing as much as 400 pounds in adulthood.
The last cubs born here, in 1988, were the male Tevye, who died in 2005, and the female Chava, who died in 2000.
Sungari, the new cubs’ mother, was born in 2003 at the Philadelphia Zoo. The father, Toma, was born in 2001 at the Toronto Zoo.