Cute Alert! Your Toronto Zoo Welcomes Birth of Endangered Amur Tiger Cubs
TORONTO, ON: Your Toronto Zoo is excited to announce that female Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) Mazyria, affectionately known to Zoo staff and volunteers as “Mazy”, gave birth to three cubs overnight on Friday April 30, 2021 after a 104-day pregnancy. The first cub was born at 11:40 pm and the second and third cubs arrived early in the morning on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Mom and cubs are all doing well; Wildlife Care Keepers have been monitoring them closely using remote cameras to minimize disturbance – a key factor to ensure that mom and cubs bond well. So far, Mazyria is being an exemplary mother, nursing and grooming the cubs regularly, but the first month remains a critical time for these new arrivals. As long as there is no need to intervene, the cubs will have their first veterinary checkup in 6-8 weeks’ time, at which point their sexes will be determined. This is Mazy’s second litter: her first litter of three cubs was born in 2013 at Granby Zoo.
At nearly 14 years old, Mazy is one of the oldest Amur tigers to give birth in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) population. The pairing of Mazyria, born at Granby Zoo in 2007, and male tiger Vasili, born at Calgary Zoo in 2012, was part of an Amur Tiger SSP recommendation. The Amur Tiger SSP ensures the ongoing genetic health of the Amur tiger population in human care, safeguarding genetic diversity that may have been lost in the wild during the 20th century. The SSP Program oversees population management within Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited member institutions and coordinates the Tiger Conservation Campaign, linking zoo tigers with their wild counterparts.
“This birth is an important contribution to a genetically healthy Amur tiger population,” said Dolf DeJong, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo. “Amur tigers are under increasing pressure due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. It is important to educate the public on their plight in the wild and do everything we can to mitigate the threats they face and halt declining populations. Together we can make a positive difference!” he added.
In 2007, the conservation status of Amur tigers was downgraded from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN). Fewer than 500 Amur tigers can be found in the wild, slowly recovering from a low of just 20-30 animals in the 1930s. Illegal hunting and habitat loss are their primary threats. These new arrivals – the first litter since 2007 – will bring the number of Amur tiger cubs raised at your Toronto Zoo to 23.
Introductions between Vasili and Mazy in winter of 2019-2020 did not result in successful breeding, but the Wildlife Care team was determined to try one last time in 2020-2021 before Mazyria reached the end of her reproductive lifespan. Due to the uncertainties in her ability to conceive at her age, the Toronto Zoo’s Reproductive Sciences branch began tracking Mazy’s reproductive cycles using fecal hormone analysis in the fall of 2020. When behavioural signs of mating receptivity were seen, which included sniffing, chuffing or vocalizing and flirtatious advances and retreats by Mazy, Wildlife Care staff carefully introduced Mazy and Vasili – an inexperienced male.
Vasili was unsure at first and it took several introduction attempts before breeding was observed on January 17, 2021. Elevated progesterone (pregnancy hormone) levels were confirmed on January 26, 2021, indicating that breeding had been successful. A follow-up analysis on April 14, 2021 showed an on-going elevation in progesterone levels, strongly suggesting that Mazyria was expecting cubs and not experiencing a pseudopregnancy.
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Note to media: Zoo staff are focused on the health and well-being of Mazy and her cubs and we will share updates as available. Media/photo opportunities are not available at this time.