OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Summer visitors to the Cat Forest at the Oklahoma City Zoo get an eye full of Kami, a 9-year-old Sumatran Tiger who, keepers say, really likes popsicles with fish surprises, and a lot of cool dips in his swimming pool.
But Kami is also a new father.
Behind these walls, far away from visitors, a 6-year-old female named Lola gave birth to 3 male cubs on July 9th.
A day later and a thousand miles away, a Siberian Tiger was born at the Philadelphia Zoo.
This is Zoya.
“Their eyes generally start opening after 12 days,” says OKC Carnivore Curator, Eddie Witte.
You’ve probably seen the pictures already.
Zoya’s journey from being a lone-surviving cub, rejected by her mother, then her journey to Oklahoma City, is well documented.
Veterinarian Gretchen Cole, Curator Eddie Witte, and keeper Tricia McDonald remember getting the phone call and wondering if an adoption might work.
Witte says, “They arrived last Friday after a 20 hour road trip.”
So here’s what you might not have seen.
To introduce Zoya to a new mom, they rubbed her down with bed hay, cub urine, and even her prospective brothers.
“Everybody just had their breath held,” says Witte. “Waiting to see what would happen.”
Imagine leaving a room thinking you have three babies then coming back and you have four.
An adoption like this had only been successfully tried once and never with two different species of tiger.
“Lola’s just an incredible mom,” boasts Witte.
Mom and her four cubs are still tucked away in a very quiet spot.
The little ones are growing and opening their eyes.
Lola is a first time mother.
No one here knows what might happen but things look good so far.
The new girl in the family might just make it after all.
Oklahoma City Zoo experts say Lola and her cubs will remain sequestered away from the public for a few weeks longer as they bond.
The new family might begin to explore their habitat in front of the public sometime in late September.
Click here for more updates on Lola, Zoya, and her brothers.