He’s three months old,  so cute, he’s almost edible, and extremely valuable. The Pittsburgh Zoo’s tiger cub, being hand-raised after his mother’s rejection, is number three  on the gene importance list for the Species Survival Plan.  Amur tigers are critically endangered. About 500 are left  in the wilds of the Amur River region, in northeast Asia, and about 197 in captivity. Our guy is pretty feisty now, loves to play AND bite. Just learning to be an uber-predator. Is he habituated to humans? Yes. But the alternative was not surviving, and he is adored by all the zoo staff who care for him.

 The comfort is, that when he moves back into the exhibit, being alone should not be too big a problem. Tigers are solitary in the wild, except when they mate. But right now, he loves playing with Bella, the lab that belongs to Lead Carnivore Keeper, Kathy Suthard. Kathy says that he will jump on Bella, but when he hurts her with his teeth or claws, she goes after him, and he runs away. Just like he would have done with his brothers or sisters–so this is good for him. 

It is interesting how many women ask me why his mother, Toma, rejected him. It is probably the first question they ask. The staff have different theories, and no one really knows for sure, but “singletons” as they call them, are not as common. Tigers usually have two or three cubs. With only one cub, she might not have produced much milk, which cuts down on the hormones that make mammals want to nurture their young. Whatever the reason, the  little guy is thriving, adored by his caretakers, and the public.

And there is more good news about another critically endangered species. The discovery of an estimated 125,000 Western Lowland gorillas in central Africa is amazing. The gorillas at the Pittsburgh Zoo are Western Lowland apes, and one of the largest troops in a zoo in the U.S.  This is a photo of one of the females (looking like most of us do after a rough day at the office!), and hyou have got to see the two silverbacks. Lead Primate Keeper Karen Vacco says Mrithi, which means “prince” in Swahili, has the grassy territory, and Harry, the other silverback, has the moat. Karen says that happens sometimes in the wild. The newest gorillas found in the Republic of the Congo are in the north of that country, and, as of yet, the Ebola virus has not made its way there. Scientists warn, though, that this area is right in the path that the disease has taken, and it is as lethal to gorillas as it is to humans. The other threat is hunting for bush meat. But, somehow, these huge numbers have escaped the snares and rifles so far. They are still considered critically endangered. 

By the way, look for Karen on Animal Planet on Sunday, 8/17, at 9 pm, talking about orangutans. Also, Elephant Manager Willie Theison is on Animal Planet this Sunday, 8/10, at 9 pm.


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