Before daylight hours on Christmas, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo welcomed two Amur cubs to the Rosebrough Tiger Passage, marking Cleveland’s first tiger birth in more than 20 years. While a major local milestone, these tiny tigers are being celebrated on a global scale, as Amur cats are an endangered species.
“There are very few left in the world,” says Chris Kuhar, executive director of the zoo. “There are probably only 300 to 400 total in the wild.” The Amur tiger's native range is in the far eastern side of Russia and northeastern China.
Since their December 25 arrival, the cubs have been bottle-fed five times a day and carefully monitored by a special team of animal care experts with the zoo's Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine. Their parents, mom Zoya and dad Hector, have been watched under a close eye as well.
According to Kuhar, the zoo wasn’t sure how Zoya would respond to her tiger kittens, and felt somewhat nervous in the days leading up to their birth.
“This was mom’s first time and we never know how they’ll react,” he says. “We weren’t comfortable with her maternal instincts, so we moved the cubs away from her.”
Hector came to the zoo in March 2017 from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the United Kingdom and Zoya arrived in October 2019 from the Odense Zoo in Denmark. They joined senior female tiger, Dasha, who passed away in September 2018, and male Klechka, who passed away in April 2020. Kuhar says they worked with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP) to acquire Hector and Zoya for breeding.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today announces the birth of two Amur tiger cubs, the first tigers born in Cleveland in 20 years born between December 24 and December 25.
Zoo officials waited to breed Hector and Zoya for a while, as they wanted to ensure the two additional tigers would have enough space before breeding them.
In just two months, the cubs have already made substantial growth. Their eyes and ears are now fully opened, and they’re starting to move around more as their coordination increases.
Right now, their movements are unsteady, but that continues to change as they concentrate on eating and gaining muscle.
Zoo guests can officially visit the young Amur tigers later this spring. “It’s a slower process than normal because normally, the cats would follow their mom into the exhibit,” Kuhar explains.
They have a bit of growing to do, and still require attention and care from the Metroparks staff. Cubs usually stay with their mother for about two years. Kuhar explains the cubs will never return to Zoya's care, but instead will have to learn from each other and rely on the help of zoo veterinary and husbandry care experts.
“We’re going to get them a little stronger, a little braver,” he says. “It’ll be worth the wait.”
Kuhar says the cubs will be at the zoo for at least a year before officials will once again work with the SSP on breeding the cubs, at which time they may go to another zoo.
“They’re like human children in a way,” Kuhar explains. “Once they reach typical adult life, they move out and move on.”
In the next few weeks, the Metroparks will document their growth, share behind-the-scenes updates, and engage with users online.
They also need your help naming these tigers.
To stay in the know as the Amur cubs grow, follow @ClevelandMetroparksZoo on social media and check the zoo’s website for regular updates.