NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Photos: Tiger cub arrives in OKC

The new cub, Zoya, is second to the left. Provided by OKC Zoo.
The new cub, Zoya, is second to the left. Provided by OKC Zoo.

Early efforts to integrate a tiger cub from the Philadelphia Zoo into a newborn litter in Oklahoma City have shown signs of promise, zoo officials said Monday.

Zoya, was born July 10 in Philadelphia along with four other cubs. But two were stillborn, one was accidentally injured by its mother  and later died. Another developed gastrointestinal issues that led to its death, leaving Zoya as the sole survivor. The Amur tiger arrived Friday after a 20-hour journey from Philadelphia by car.

Lola, a six-year-old Sumatran tiger at the Oklahoma City Zoo, gave birth to three cubs July 8.

Zoya was not nurtured by its mother and required hand feeding by Philadelphia Zoo staff, gaining several pounds. But the situation isn't ideal which is where Oklahoma City and Lola come in. Scent will play a big role in the integration.

“Though Sumatran and Amur or Siberian tigers are different subspecies, they look almost identical as cubs,” said Eddie Witte, curator of carnivores at the Oklahoma City Zoo.  “Our first step in cross-fostering Zoya is to add her into our litter of three cubs and cover her with the scent of the other cubs by rubbing her with hay from the den, tiger cub urine and even the other cubs. By doing this, we hope Lola will identify Zoya as one of her own.”


 This is not the zoo's first effort at cross fostering animals. When a African painted dog showed no motherly instincts toward her litter a golden retriever that had recently given birth was brought in to successfully nurse them in 2011.

It's still rare, however. Few examples have been documented.

“Cross-fostering in tigers is unusual, but with less than 500 Amur tigers in the wild, every cub is important for the species’ survival,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science, Oklahoma City Zoo. 

 While Lola temporarily left her cubs for a feeding, the Oklahoma City Zoo animal care team entered the tiger cub den and prepped Zoya and the other cubs.  As part of this process the zoo team weighed each cub and confirmed that all three Sumatran cubs were male.   Meanwhile, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City Zoo animal teams gathered in the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital’s conference room to watch live video from the tiger’s habitat broadcast on a large screen monitor.  Everyone watched intently as Lola returned to her cubs and stood over the new cub Zoya. Within seconds, Lola began to lick and nuzzle Zoya to the great relief of the collective team.

The cubs will continue to bond and nurse with Lola in her habitat off public view.  In six to eight weeks, the cubs will be big enough to begin exploring their outdoor habitat and may step outside for visiting guests to see.

Related Photos
<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - The new cub, Zoya, is second to the left. Provided by OKC Zoo. " title="The new cub, Zoya, is second to the left. Provided by OKC Zoo. "><figcaption>The new cub, Zoya, is second to the left. Provided by OKC Zoo. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›