Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of four endangered Amur tiger cubs born May 31 in a private maternity den. The cubs cannot be seen by visitors yet and are being monitored by keepers via a closed-circuit camera. Zoo veterniarians gave the cubs a clean bill of health at a recent exam.The quadruplet cubs are the first to be born at Denver Zoo since 2003. An announcement will be made when the cubs are big enough to be seen in their zoo habitat.
The four unnamed cubs, two male and two female, were born to mother, Koshka (Koosh-kuh), and father, Waldemere (Wald-uh-meer). Waldemere was born at Denver Zoo in 2003, but Koshka was born at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2005 and came to Denver in late 2008. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.
Amur Tigers are seasonal breeders and in North America generally breed January through June. After a gestation period of approximately three months, two to four cubs are born in a sheltered den. They are nursed by their mother, who rarely leaves them. At about two weeks old their eyes open and their first teeth begin to erupt.
Amur tigers are classified as critically endangered, with an estimated population of less than 400 individuals remaining in the wild. These animals were once called Siberian tigers because they were found throughout Siberia. They are now almost completely confined to the Far East portion of Asia along the Amur River and because of this they are now commonly called Amur tigers. In addition to habitat loss, the biggest threats to these tigers comes from poaching, both for their fur and their other body parts which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Amur tigers are the largest member of the cat family. They can grow to nearly four-feet-tall and more than seven-feet-long. Koshka is smaller than Waldemere, weighing in at more than 280 pounds during her wellness exam, while Waldemere weighs an estimated 360 pounds. Amur tigers also have longer hair and more white on their coats than other tigers.