Rare tiger cubs being hand-raised at Pittsburgh Zoo after mother rejects them

Author: CBS/AP
Photo via CBS News/ Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

PITTSBURGH (CBS/AP) Two rare tiger cubs are being hand-raised at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium after their mother didn’t bond with them.

Zoo keepers showed off the twin male and female Amur cubs Tuesday, CBS Pittsburgh reports. They were born Sept. 25.

“These Amur tiger cubs are precious to all of us. Listed as endangered in the wild, these cubs are genetically valuable to the future of their species as well. Our goal right now is to raise two healthy young cubs who will one day have families of their own,” Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, the director of Animal Health at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, said in a press release.

After noticing their mother, 10-year-old Terney, wasn’t caring for them 24 hours after their birth, zoo keepers decided to remove them.

“Removing the cubs from their mother is the last thing that we want to do, but after witnessing Terney’s prolonged disinterest and lack of nursing, we knew that we didn’t have a choice,” Dr. Sturgeon said.

The zoo had a livestream where they introduced the tiger cubs. You can watch it below:

The zoo’s veterinary team treated their hypothermia, then placed the cubs in incubators to keep them warm until their bodies learned to regulate their own body temperature.

The cubs are being cared for at the zoo’s Animal Care Center. They are playing, learning, and as the zookeepers, say eating “their meatballs with gusto.” However, the boy cub took to it a little slower than his sister when meat was first introduced into their diet at six weeks of age.

“Though we had to step in and become a substitute mom for these little guys, we don’t cuddle them like a domestic kitten or puppy. We want them to grow up as tigers. We provide them with plenty of toys such as cardboard boxes to destroy, or straw and towels to make little nests for themselves. Most importantly, they have each other,” Dr. Sturgeon said.

At about 9 weeks old, the cubs will transfer to one of the cat buildings, where they will be able to see, hear and smell other cats.

The goal is to reunite them with their mother, or a substitute mother.

In the press release, the zoo’s Lead Carnivore Keeper Kathy Suthard said: “Our goal is to get them back with their mother or a substitute mother. We are considering two options at this time. When the cubs are about 12 weeks of age, we will slowly begin introducing them to Toma, our matriarch tiger. Toma is a great mother and has successfully raised several litters. We will also explore the possibility of putting the cubs with their mom too.”

The Pittsburgh Zoo is known for its success in reintroducing youngsters back to their families. In 2011, a baby tiger was successfully reintroduced to her family after recuperating from a life-threatening illness.

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