Just. Stop. It.
Those faces. Those paws!
These two critically-endangered loves were born at the Zoo in early January, when they weighed 1.6 pounds and 2 pounds, respectively. You can catch the brothers feeding at the Zoo every day at 1:45pm. Until you can make it to the Zoo, hopefully this adorableness tides you over.
all images by Jeff Hewitt | here’s his website
VA Zoo veterinarian Amanda Guthrie was nice enough to answer some questions about the tiger kittens for us.
AltDaily: Interacting with tiger cubs on a daily basis sounds like a dream. Is it as fun as it seems? What have been some of your most memorable moments with them so far?
Dr. Guntrie: It is definitely fun but also a lot of hard work! It’s really fun to watch them grow and develop every day. We definitely really remember the milestones like opening their eyes, first beginning to walk and now they are really wrestling and playing which is really fun to see.
For folks who are checking into the webcam, what are some behaviors they might see that have special developmental significance, or relation to what they would be doing in the wild?
Well, certainly the things that are important to us and for their future development are their interactions with one another. It’s very important that they be raised with other tigers so they can learn appropriate behavior and not become imprinted on humans.
Their wrestling and play behavior are helping them develop skills that, in the wild, would translate into helping them hunt and exhibiting other natural tiger behaviors. Certainly, here at the zoo, they won’t have to hunt for meals but we want them to develop their natural repertoire of behaviors so they can be as healthy as possible (both mentally and physically). We are also monitoring their physical development (make sure they are growing normally, no developmental/congenital abnormalities) and watching to be sure their progression of development is normal and similar between the two.
What are the cubs’ favorite things? Favorite food, favorite toys, favorite games, favorites ways to be interacted with?
Well right now they are only taking bottles, which contain formula and chicken baby food, so they haven’t had a variety of food options just yet. That will come very soon. They like playing with their stuffed animals and wrestling with one another. Over time we will introduce more toys and enrichment items for them to interact with. We try to minimize our interactions with them. They are not our pets, they are wild animals and we want them to develop as normally as possible, with minimal human influence.
Help us understand the importance of these cubs from a species protection standpoint. The Zoo had to receive special approval for this, yes?
Malayan tigers are critically endangered in the wild; there are only a few hundred of them left, they are at high risk of extinction. So these births are tremendously significant.
Yes. We participate in a species survival plan (ssp) that helps maintain the sustainability and genetic diversity of the population and makes breeding recommendations. So, yes, the parents, Api and Christopher were recommended to breed based on their lineage and genetics.
In what ways are the tiger cubs like domestic house cat kittens, and what ways are they dissimilar?
I’d say, felids, in general, exhibit very similar behaviors. As youngsters they like to play; this helps them develop skills and abilities they will use in the wild. They are clumsy at first but quickly become agile, they will rapidly become skilled hunters.
Certainly, domestic cats have lived with humans for thousands of years and tolerate us for the most part, but tigers are not domesticated and will quickly become large and dangerous. So we will limit our interactions with them once they are fully weaned onto a meat diet. I can’t think of too many differences other than size and domestication, I guess.
Watch the baby tigers 24 hours a day on the Zoo’s Cub Cam by clicking here.