CALGARY — Workers at the Calgary Zoo have been forced to provide emergency care to save the life of a newborn Siberian tiger cub that was initially doing well.
The baby was born Monday to Katja, who lost a pair of cubs last September from head trauma that was attributed to the actions of the inexperienced mother.
The tigress at first demonstrated normal maternal behaviour with the new cub, but senior animal care staff were forced to step in because she left the den for an extended period.
“We are certain that had we not intervened, this cub would have died,” said animal care director Jake Veasey.
“The vets found the cub to be dehydrated and its body temperature to be low despite being in a heated den,” he said.
“There was no other option for the immediate survival of the cub than to provide emergency treatment at the Animal Health Centre. This will continue around the clock for as long as necessary.”
Katja’s extended absence from the cub became a cause of significant concern when it was observed that the cub’s movements were becoming less frequent.
“My understanding is her condition is stable but still quite critical. said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Herron.
“We don’t know where it’s going to go from this point. They do have her stabilized. I believe she is in an incubator.”
The decision to intervene was not made lightly. Veterinary staff had hoped that going in and giving the cub a supplemental feeding would spark Katja’s interest to return to the den. But that didn’t work so the baby was removed from its mother — permanently.
“Having had to intervene to the extent we did to keep the cub alive, means returning the cub to its mother any time soon is a risk we are not prepared to take,” said Veasey.
“Intervening in instances like this is always a last resort. In our experience, often when a mother leaves her young it is because she senses that there is a congenital problem.”
If the cub survives, it will have to be hand-raised.
Siberian tigers are considered endangered and their population continues to decline.
Census estimates say there are fewer than 400 adults left in the wild.
Veasey had already indicated that the early stages of the cub’s life could be tricky, because “new mothers can make mistakes.”