Tiger cub continues to grow with ‘adopted’ family at Oklahoma City Zoo

OKLAHOMA CITY -  Following a successful ‘adoption’ of a rare tiger cub,  we got a rare glimpse of the tigers as they continue to grow.

Officials say Zoya, a female Amur tiger cub, was born on July 10 at the Philadephia Zoo. However, she was rejected by her mother and caregivers knew they had to find her an opportunity to grow up with other tigers.

As a result, the Oklahoma City Zoo offered to attempt to integrate Zoya with a litter of Sumatran tiger cubs that were born at the zoo one day before Zoya’s birth.

“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 with the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Officials say that although Sumatran and Amur tigers are different subspecies, they look the same as cubs.

Three Sumatran tiger cubs with Amur tiger cub Zoya on scale. Zoya 2nd from left., Photo by Gretchen Cole

Amazingly, the zoo says that the integration was a success.

“We are very happy that Zoya has integrated well with her new adoptive family,” said Donna Evernham, curator of carnivores and ungulates, Philadelphia Zoo. “She has made an incredible journey in her first two weeks of life and our Philadelphia Zoo team is thrilled to partner with the Oklahoma City Zoo to ensure Zoya’s well-being. With fewer than 500 Amur tigers left in the wild Zoya’s birth is significant to the entire population.”

Now, the tigers are 12-weeks-old and just got their second round of vaccinations.

"Oh those teeth are growing,” Dr. Gretchen Cole, associate veterinarian at the Oklahoma City Zoo, said.

One by one, each tiger cub had their eyes checked, were vaccinated and given anti-worm medicine to make them strong.

Children were able to get a glimpse of the exams from above.

"Whenever you can touch the lives of a child early on, it really does make a difference as they grow and they make choices as adults,” Kevin Drees, director of animal collections at the Oklahoma City Zoo, said.

In the end, all of the tiger cubs passed their health tests.

"Today, they went just as we expected. They're growing. They're getting a little more feisty like their mom and that's totally normal, but that's to be expected, but they were accepting of everything we did,” Dr. Cole said.

Eko, Ramah, Gusti and Zoya are part of a conservation effort through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium to manage the population of certain species.

"There is an SSP or species survival plan where based upon their genetics, they're paired with other animals for reproduction so they'll probably stay here until they're 2-years-old at least and then transfer to other AZA zoos," said Cole.

Until then, Oklahoma City will be their home to nurture this endangered species and teach other little ones about the largest cat species in the animal kingdom.

You can also follow their progress by watching them on the zoo's tiger cam.