Posted on August 20, 2021 at 8:00 AM by Blog Author
Tiger cubs…it’s complicated.
Luka and Misha have been determined to be a good match for breeding by the AZA Species Survival Plan but it’s not that easy. Tigers are solitary animals and typically only come together for breeding during short periods of time.
A female will be receptive to a male for several days a month, and during those days we are able to attempt an introduction for breeding. This behavior has generally been seen between October and June.
As you can see in the picture Misha is very confident around Luka. While Luka tends to be more shy and hesitant around her. He typically jumps on the bench during their time together and she works REALLY HARD to impress him - excessive rolling, chuffing and rubbing her head on him.
Before introductions are initiated, both tigers meet at a mesh door in the tiger building called a "howdy" door. This door gives the tigers an opportunity to be very close to each other to communicate without actually being physically together. This is important because it provides a safe opportunity to determine if the other tiger is receptive and allows the keepers time to assess each animal's behavior. Tigers are aggressive to each other during breeding season, and the likelihood of injury can be significant. Due to this a great deal of staff training, planning, and caution is utilized.
Positive behaviors that keepers are looking for at the “howdy” may include; vocalizations "chuffing," rolling on the ground, rubbing heads together and/or licking each other through the mesh door. While negative behaviors may include any aggression such as hissing, swatting or growling and avoidance of each other at the mesh door. If multiple positive behaviors are seen in both animals, and the decision is made to open the "howdy" door, staff monitor the animals while they are together, and allow the tigers to separate at any time. Staff keep an ethogram to track behaviors in both tigers, which can help to predict when the next female cycle may begin.
October is just around the corner and patience is both necessary and challenging!