Penguins, tigers, and elephants

Penguins, tigers, and elephants, oh my!!!!!  They are all part of what makes Pittsburgh shine this week-end. Two of those creatures are making headlines at the Zoo. The other performed in what must have been a zoo-like atmosphere on the afternoon of May 18. 

Now, I wasn’t there for Fleury’s fabulous shut-out. He was stellar, wasn’t he? But I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, a week ago.

This photo stinks,  but it’s my only keepsake to capture the atmosphere, which just gave you goosebumps. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like as they clinched. You gotta love the mystique and tradition connected to the victory hardware in the NHL. The Stanley Cup, the Prince of Wales Trophy. 

In this frozen NBC video, Crosby  is standing as far away from the trophy as he can, and people told me the crowd was shouting, “Don’t touch it.” Bad luck. Guy Junker remembered that Mario actually picked it up in 91 because he didn’t know about the jinx.  I was at that game, when they clinched against the Boston Bruins with four straight, after losing the first two in Beantown. Jinx didn’t matter that year. Ha!!

It’s interesting.  The night the Hossa trade was announced, I talked to a relative of one of the Penguins’ owners. He was irritated with some of the sports talk questioning the trade. He told me the intent was to win the Cup this year. Well, they sure are lookin’ like they are going to do it. Guy says he believes that trade helped send a message to the players that the ownership expected them to step up this year. That, and the injury to Sidney forced them to prove they could win without their captain. You have to give Mario, Ray Shero, and Therrien, so much credit. They have played this all perfectly. But one of the NBC analysts mentioned Craig Patrick as having built a portion of this team, and it is true.  What is remarkable is the calm of that team in the locker room, and in the news conference after the game. They have long been described as mature beyond their years, but actually seeing them so focused and contained was impressive. 

And if Dallas becomes only the third team in NHL history to come back to win after being down three games to none, the  Pens will be playing the Stars again. Just not the Minnesota North Stars. On the other hand, if they end up playing Detroit, Pittsburgh fans will be returning to the site of their latest Super Bowl victory. Good omens–both.

Now on to the real zoo.

Perhaps it it a good omen that the father of the wee, little tiger cub was also hand raised. When we all finally got to see him, only 5 days old, being fed from a bottle, it just ripped your heart out. He was so eager, eyes squeezed shut, so helpless, now that his mother has rejected him. While hand raising  tiger cubs is largely successful, the waiting game is to see if he gets through the next several weeks without demonstrating any health issues that may have made his mother instinctively reject him. But the vet, Dr. Cindy Stadler, her staff, and Mammal Curator Amos Morris, are working round the clock to  give him a fighting chance. His father, Globus, turned out okay. Amur tigers are the largest of the subspecies, I believe, and it is breathtaking to see them in the snows of Siberia (in documentaries, that is–I haven’t been there) . And to think it is hard to even glimpse them now, since there are only 400 left in the wild, and 190 in captivity.  So our tiny tiger is very, very important. The gene pool is so small, it could use an infusion of Toma’s (the mother) DNA. 

And speaking of  babies, I got an email from someone who wanted to know more about the elephant babies. It turns out, her young daughter has been following the development of Victoria and Callee, the Zoo’s first African Elephants to be born there. Now look at them!

Callee will be eight in September, and Victoria will be nine. Callee is already showing signs of sexual interest, and at night, he sleeps in his own stall. Victoria will be the big sister to the two new babies that will be born to Moja and Nan in the next month, and Willie Theison says they will be attracted to her like a magnet. He calls her The Princess, and he says he is hoping she will step up and help take care of them–show them the ropes, so to speak. If she doesn’t, he says she may have to be introduced to them, and persuaded that she still is the most important, but needs to be a good sister. I have signed up to do the baby watch, sitting in the elephant barn for 4 hours in the middle of the night, staring at the monitor to see if they are showing any signs of labor. I tried to pick a time I really think one may be born, but, even with Willie’s suggestion, watch me miss it. Can’t wait, though. We really have an honest-to-goodness herd. And the dynamic, the bonding, the sharing of calf rearing is so beautifully complex. Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have its ellies, tigers…..and Penguins!!!!!

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