Animals are a constant surprise

Just when you think you’ve seen it all something happens to make you say, “I never saw that coming.” This is especially true for those working with animals. As I begin my 40th year working in zoos I have to wonder if I have forgotten more animal stories than I remember. Perhaps the reason is that as long as I keep working with animals, I will continue to be surprised.

Recently, Viktoria, the female Amur tiger cub, discovered that she could get on top of the mesh tunnel. Once she perfected her technique, the top of the tunnel became her spot. She used the lower end as if it were her hammock and would climb to the top to enjoy the highest view possible, towering over her two brothers. Although they continued to try, they just weren’t able to figure out how she was doing it. They eventually did figure it out, but the whole episode just makes you wonder what they will come up with next.

For the cubs, life is still fun and games, learning their abilities and testing their limitations. Soon it will be time to split up the group as the cubs get older. We have already made changes to one of the den spaces to allow keepers to separate them during their feeding time. The bigger they have grown the more aggressive they become when it comes to their food. Soon the trio will be separated from one another. As naturally solitary animals, the male cubs especially would begin venturing out on their own more and more until they finally had the confidence to set out on their own to find their way in the world.

As work continues on the new leopard habitat, the zoo’s staff is preparing for the time that will come for separating the cubs. Once the habitat is completed and ready for Clover to move in, staff will start planning for the separation. At some point soon, with Clover in her new home, the boys will be separated from Zoya and Viktoria. As brothers growing up together, they will get along fine together until the time the Tiger Species Survival Program committee identifies their new homes. With the new tiger habitat, the zoo can manage the now five Amur tigers comfortably and provide for all their needs even as the cubs continue to grow.

In the meantime, we can all expect to have stories to tell about this young group and the milestones they reach on their way to maturity. Today the stories are about the antics of the three tiger cubs, but there are many more stories and memories for everyone to experience throughout the zoo. All of the animals are full of surprises but it is often the youngsters that surprise you the most. Whether it’s your first visit or your 40th visit to the zoo there is a world of experiences and stories to last a lifetime.


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