Yummy Meats, Tiger Treats
In the wild, Amur tigers eat big animals like wild boars, elk and roe deer (a European species of small deer). They will also devour birds, fish and mice and have been known to hunt larger animals such as brown and black bears.
Don’t worry.The bears at the Milwaukee County Zoo are safe. Amba and the cubs eat a Nebraska brand feline diet, which is a beef-based diet with grains. The mom gets a supplement put into her food. It is called KMR, or kitten milk replacements (a mixture of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals). This is something you can buy for domesticated cats as well. The powder is mixed into the meat supply Amba eats. The KMR gave her the nutrients she needed in her milk while the cubs nursed for the first five to six months. The cubs currently get KMR in the 1 ½ pounds of meat they eat per day.
As the cubs grow older, it becomes harder to tell them apart because their size and personalities have become very similar. You used to be able to tell the cubs by their character traits. “Tula used to be more coy and usually hung back,” Dretzka said. Now Tula seems to be exerting herself, especially when she wants her meat. Now she tells her sister, “Get your own!”
Dretzka says that the three main feline staff can tell the cubs apart easily. The cubs have different stripe and spot patterns. These can be dots, bars, or dashes. If you look at Tula, she has a jagged, lightning-bolt-shaped stripe directly over the center of each eye. Nuri has a straight dash above the center of each eye. Another identification method is to look at Nuri’s first stripe over her right shoulder. It is forked at the end, and Tula’s first stripe isn’t. “We frequently take photo IDs of the tiger cubs that we highlight distinctive markings on the tigers. The photographs can later be used if the cubs are sent to a different zoo for identification,” Dretzka said, adding:
“In the past, we used tattoos to identify tigers, but the keepers would have to anesthetize them and then shave the fur in order to see the tattoo. We have switched to transponder chips that are placed between the shoulder blades under the skin. A transponder reader, which looks like an old circle-top label maker, reads the chips and displays a number on the screen. The numbers are individual to every individual tiger. At 4 weeks, they had a chip put in as a permanent means of identification. The drawback of the chip is that the reader has to be six inches above the tiger and the chip reader has to be directly in line with the chip. To identify them safely, keepers have to put the tigers to sleep.”
Next Section: Mom’s the Word: Amba grows up.