Mom’s the Word: Amba Grows Up

Before the cubs were born, Amba was rarely seen in the indoor exhibit or the outdoor exhibit.  “She wasn’t afraid of the exhibit,” Dretzka said.  “Her issues were with doors and doorways.  She was always afraid that someone would close the door behind her.”  On the rare occasions when she ventured into the exhibit, she would put only her head and her front legs into the enclosure.  “We tried to get her comfortable with the exhibit by covering the windows,” Dretzka said.  “This was because we thought that the people scared her.  That didn’t work.  Then we tried to make it a night exhibit with food in it, but she wouldn’t go more than 8 feet into the exhibit.  We know this because any food past 8 feet of the door was uneaten.” Amba did go into the exhibit for 20 minutes when she was breeding.

Eventually, Amba began to like the outside yard, but she would only go outside at night.  When she was close to giving birth, however, zookeepers closed the door to the outside exhibit.  “We didn’t want her to have the cubs outside because we wouldn’t have much control over her, and the cubs would be exposed to the elements,” noted Dretzka. Also, there would be no camera to monitor the cubs and mother’s behavior.

Mom with cubSince the cubs were born, Amba’s desire to protect her cubs has overridden her fear of doors.  The curious cubs used to sneak into the indoor exhibit to explore.  “At first the cubs liked to explore the exhibit more than the mother was comfortable with.  When they walked off too far, she would pick them up by the ruff on the back of their necks and bring them to the back holding area.  “Her mother-need to retrieve the cubs was stronger than her fear of the door,” Dretzka said.  “The cubs forced her to overcome her fear and go out of the door.”

Dad Bachuta left the Milwaukee County Zoo Dec. 29, 2009, for the Big Apple. He went to the Bronx Zoo, where he will be bred as part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. (To learn more about animal transfers, click here).  This shouldn’t affect Amba because she (and other tiger moms) raise cubs without the help of males.

On the Job: A Zookeeper Shares Fun Facts About the Cubs