Calgary Zoo is getting ready to say Goodbye to the two male tiger boys, Vasili and Samkha. Their mum Katja gave birth to the triplets on 30 March 2012, and since then the Amur tiger boys, together with their sister Kira, have been a great attraction for the zoo’s visitors.
I remember when the news of the birth was announced and the first time I went to visit them, once they had been introduced to the public; it was just fab to be able to watch the little cubs play with each other and their mum. None of them seemed to have been intimidated by the crowds that would stand in front of the glass daily to watch them. Over the past two years I have spent hours watching them play and grow into the youngsters they now are.
Amur tigers (also known as Siberian tigers) are the world’s largest cats and live predominantly in the Russian birch forests, although some can also be found in China and North Korea. Latest statistics show that there are around 400 to 500 tigers living in the wild, with numbers being fairly stable.
There once were eight subspecies, but three became extinct in the 20th century; Bali, Javan, Caspian. The five remaining subspecies, Amur (Siberian), Bengal, White, Indochinese and South China tiger, are all endangered.
Like Zebra’s, no two tigers have the same stripes.
Despite their fearsome reputation, most tigers avoid humans; however, a few do become dangerous maneaters. These animals are often sick and unable to hunt normally, or live in areas where their traditional prey has vanished.
Females give birth to litters of two to six cubs, which they raise with little or no help from the male. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old, and remain with their mothers for two to three years, when they disperse to find their own territory.
As the tigers are nearly 2 years old it is time for the males to be moved to new homes; in this case they are both going to move to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Zoo. I am sure I am one of many that will be sad to see Vasili and Samkha leave, but I am also very happy to have been able to see them grow up over the past couple of years.
In those years I have taken tons of pictures of these cubs and one in particular is a favourite of ours; in fact, my husband liked it so much that he painted it in oils. Below is my original photograph and a photo of my husbands oil painting of the same shot.
Here are a few of my favourite photos of the cubs taken over the past years. Goodbye boys, may you be able to amaze and impress children and adults alike in Winnipeg as you have done here in Calgary!