Their births are important for the survival of this critically endangered big cat
Three critically endangered Amur tiger cubs were born at the Saint Louis Zoo on Nov. 13, 2023. The cubs are the first successful tiger births at the Zoo in more than 10 years and are a significant contribution to the population of Amur tigers in North American zoos. The largest of wild cats, this species is considered one of the most endangered big cats in the world.
The baby tigers’ parents are mother Reka (pronounced REE-kuh), age 5, and father Maxim, age 11. Mother and cubs are doing well and will remain in their private, quiet and calm maternity den inside Big Cat Country for the next few months to allow time for the cubs to grow large enough to safely navigate their outdoor habitat. Maxim can be seen by Zoo guests in his habitat at Big Cat Country.
The first few months of life are critical for newborn tigers. The Animal Care team is monitoring the tigers via camera and has observed Reka being an attentive mom, cleaning, feeding the cubs and keeping them warm. In the coming weeks, the cubs will receive their first well-baby check by the Zoo’s Veterinary Care team. Since Reka is keeping them close for the time being, that will be the first chance for the care team to determine the sex of each cub. The Zoo will wait until after the exam to name the cubs.
“The Animal Care Team has worked hard to support Reka throughout this journey, from introductions to Maxim to the birth of the cubs. It is incredibly rewarding to see her be such a gentle and attentive mom,” said Julie Hartell-DeNardo, Kevin Beckmann Curator of Carnivores, Saint Louis Zoo. "One of my favorite things about working here is seeing the team effort across the Zoo on behalf of the animals. This includes careful observations of the tigers by the Animal Care team, hormonal analysis by our Research Department, the Veterinary Care team’s coordination of ultrasound training to monitor the pregnancy and cubs’ development, the Animal Nutrition team who ensures Reka and the babies’ dietary needs are met and even our Facilities Management team helps to keep things working and building things to improve our ability to create overall exceptional well-being for our animals,” said Hartell-DeNardo.
Species Survival Plan
Reka was born at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and moved to the Saint Louis Zoo in 2021. Maxim was born at Peoria Zoo in Illinois and moved to the Saint Louis Zoo from Indianapolis Zoo in 2022. The two were paired on a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan, a program responsible for maintaining a healthy population of Amur tigers in North American zoos.
Fewer Than 500 Left in the Wild
It is estimated there are less than 500 Amur tigers left in the wild, with most living in the Russian Far East. They face high risk of extinction in the wild due to habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
These cats once lived throughout much of Siberia and surrounding areas, and for this reason they were often called Siberian tigers. Today, with their reduced range, they are no longer found in Siberia or called by that name. Their "new" name comes from the Amur River, which flows through the middle of their current, smaller range in Russia.
The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the cubs at stlzoo.org/TigerCubs and on social media when possible: facebook.com/stlzoo, X (twitter.com/stlzoo), instagram.com/stlzoo, and youtube.com/stlzootube.
About the Saint Louis Zoo
Home to over 16,000 animals, representing nearly 500 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit stlzoo.org.