Banham Zoo in Norfolk is today celebrating the birth of two Amur tiger cubs, an endangered species, following a successful genetically matched conservation programme pairing.
The announcement that Kuzma and Mishka are parents 2 weeks ago comes after two years of careful planning.
Mishka first moved to Banham Zoo in May 2021 from Woburn Safari Park, as part of the European Breeding Programme for the species – an incredibly important conservation programme in place to protect endangered animals from extinction.
Mishka was identified as a genetically compatible mate for the Norfolk zoo’s resident male, Kuzma, who was bred at the zoo 13 years ago.
Oliver Lewis-McDonald, Team Leader of Carnivores at Banham Zoo, said: “Amur tiger mothers naturally seek out a suitable secluded den site to protect offspring from any potential predators and to shelter them form the worst of the elements.
“We therefore provided Mishka with a purpose-built cubbing box inside one of the dens. The design of the box has been used successfully in the past with tigers and leopards, but Mishka wasn’t impressed with it! So, we decided to use a different den design to still ensure the privacy Mishka needed for her cubs at this early stage of infancy.
“Our discreet protective measures led to quite some public speculation though, so we are delighted to reveal the safe arrival of the tiger cubs. Both cubs look to be developing very well and every day they are moving around with more ease. Amur tigers are born blind, so the two cubs are starting to take a first glimpse of their new home as they begin to open their eyes. Mishka is proving to be an incredible first-time mother and Kuzma has shown quite a bit if interest too”.
After spending a few weeks settling into their new surroundings, the cubs will be vaccinated, microchipped, and sexed by keepers.
Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are one of 9 subspecies of tiger – three of which are now extinct. Due to its Siberian habitat, the Amur tiger has a long coat of fur and a large ruff around its jawline. Amur tigers are the largest of the world’s big cats, as well as the heaviest.
They are classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and hunting, with only around 500 thought to be left in the wild.
The Zoological Society of East Anglia, the charity which runs Banham Zoo in Norfolk and sister park Africa Alive! in Suffolk, works with The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) breeding programme to conserve the populations of endangered animals, including tigers. The programme coordinator issues pairing recommendations for zoos all over Europe based on the genetic importance of potential offspring.
This breeding programme maintains a population of around 250 Amur tigers housed in EAZA zoos which are managed by a breeding programme coordinator to maintain as much genetic variability as possible.
Claudia Roberts, CEO at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, said: “We are thrilled at the safe arrival of these two incredible cubs. Conservation is at the heart of everything we do. The beautiful result of a successful match for Mishka and Kuzma reaffirms and strengthens our resolve across the society to protect these animals.
“Both these new arrivals and our other most recent addition – a female cheetah cub at Africa Alive – are a promising step forward in our long-term vision and commitment to a wealth of conservation projects. This vital work with EAZA provides a ‘genetic safety-net’, while raising awareness and support for endangered species across the world.
“Tigers are often described as strong and resilient, which we feel is reflective of Banham Zoo and how it has survived over the last 18 months. After a challenging year for all, these tiger cubs represent a new hope”.
Half term visitors may see some glimpses of Mishka and the cubs from our CCTV footage, but they should be more visible to our guests in the coming weeks.