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Sedgwick County Zoo’s Amur tiger twins gaining weight, have their eyes open

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at 6:32 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, July 25, 2013, at 11:43 a.m.

They’re 100 percent adorable, but don’t expect a ton of action from them right now.

The Sedgwick County Zoo’s new Amur tiger cub twins pretty much do two things: eat and sleep.

“They’re still pretty boring, for lack of a better term,” joked African Veldt zookeeper Jody Sentel. “They’re not even on their feet yet. They kind of just Army-crawl around. They’re not even leaving the nest box yet.”

The male and female cubs were born July 6. The female cub opened her eyes on July 14, and the male on July 15, zoo spokeswoman Melissa Graham said. The female cub weighed in at 7 pounds on July 21, and the male at 6.6 pounds. They weighed 2.9 pounds at birth.

Their mother is Talali, who gave birth to a cub earlier this year. That cub died within 36 hours. Talali conceived that cub using a new artificial insemination technique. This time. she became pregnant the old-fashioned way.

Zookeepers are still a bit cautious about the cubs.

“It is very exciting for us to have this going on and have it be successful this time,” Sentel said. “We try not to jinx it because we’re still not completely out of the woods. We got past one week and everyone took a big sigh of relief. There was definitely a learning curve. Talali was very nervous for the first 24 hours. We saw a substantial difference in her comfort level when things started going well after about 24 to 36 hours. It was great to see that change.”

Graham said the zoo hopes to have the cubs on display in September.

Talali is taking good care of the cubs, Sentel said.

“They actually don’t need a whole lot from us right now,” the keeper said. “Really we just leave her (Talali) alone and let her do her thing.”

Keepers separate the cubs from Talali twice a week to clean her stall. During that time, keepers weigh the cubs and and “give them a lookover,” Sentel said. “We’re really just monitoring their weight twice a week.”

Although not on exhibit yet, the cubs can be seen via video. The zoo set up a live video feed to TV monitors in the Slawson Family Tiger Trek building so guests can view the cubs in the maternity den with Talali, Graham said.

About 150 Amur tigers live at 50 Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions; three adults are at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The Amur tiger is the largest of the tiger subspecies and is found in the wild in eastern Russia, northeastern China and the northern regions of North Korea. Their environments are harsh, and the tiger has an extra layer of fat to protect it from the cold.

Amur tigers are managed under a Special Survival Program by the association.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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