The Best Thing That Happened This Week: A Tiny Tiger’s Reprieve

The Philly Zoo’s rejected cub found a new home — and a new mom.

Zoya is examined at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Photo | Philadelphia Zoo

Once upon a time, there were five: five rare Amur tiger cubs, born on July 10th to 10-year-old Koosaka at the Philadelphia Zoo. But nature can be cruel; two of the cubs were stillborn. A third died in an accident, and a fourth from medical complications. Then there was only female Zoya, and Koosaka wasn’t acting very maternal. Okay, she wasn’t nursing her sole remaining cub at all. The Zoo resorted to bottle-feeding the new cub. But with only 500 Amur tigers left in the wild, zookeepers weren’t about to let Zoya languish. They knew she needed siblings to thrive. By a stroke of unbelievable luck, a Sumatran tiger at the Oklahoma City Zoo had given birth to a pride of cubs just one day before Koosaka’s delivery. So the Philly Zoo shipped Zoya to OKC, where workers waited until the Sumatran mom, Lola, left her three cubs to feed, then rolled the newcomer in amongst the litter, covering her with their scent. The goal: to get Lola to adopt her. It was a ploy that had worked only once before with tigers — and that was with the same subspecies. “Everybody just had their breath held,” said OKC Zoo curator Eddie Witte.

So far, so good.

Lola is nursing Zoya, along with her other cubs. They’re one big happy family, though it will be a few weeks before they’re ready to meet the public. But look! They’re already in People magazine!

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