Zoo to show it's stripes on International Tiger Day

July 28, 2014 - 3:02pm

Activities, keeper talks help bring attention to issues tigers face in the wild

The Oregon Zoo will celebrate International Tiger Day July 29, focusing on the highly endangered Amur subspecies and its struggle to avoid extinction.

Visitors can learn more about the zoo's Amur tiger, Mikhail, as well as his wild counterparts, which are among the most endangered big cats on the planet.

Throughout the day, keeper staff and volunteers will be on hand to provide visitors with information and actions they can take to protect tigers. Talks will take place as follows:

  • 9:30 to 10 a.m. - tiger-themed enrichment
  • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. - ZooGuide animal talks
  • 11 a.m. - keeper talk
  • 1 p.m. - keeper talk

"Mik's definitely getting up there in years," said animal curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's tiger area. "The median life expectancy for male Amur tigers is 16, and Mik turns 16 in a few months, so he's considered elderly. But thankfully, he's still active and playful, especially during the cooler months. Our keepers work hard to make sure he stays healthy and engaged."

Cutting notes that while Mikhail is doing well, his wild counterparts are imperiled by habitat loss and poaching: Fewer than 500 are believed to remain in their home range. The Amur tiger species derives its name from the Amur River, which runs through the region of southeast Russia to which this subspecies is native.

Another subspecies — the Sumatran tiger — is critically endangered because of an ingredient found in everyday products such as ice cream and toothpaste. Deforestation driven by the unsustainable production of palm oil continues to cost tigers, orangutans, rhinos and many other species the habitat they need to survive.

North American and European zoos are participating in coordinated breeding programs to help preserve these critically endangered cats. The Oregon Zoo also supports the Tiger Conservation Campaign, which works to curb poaching of Amur tigers through more effective patrolling and monitoring techniques. The campaign also supports training for Russian veterinarians and research to determine the source of a canine distemper virus that afflicts these endangered cats.

For more information about Amur tiger conservation and ways to help, visit the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance's website. ALTA is an international coalition of organizations working for the conservation of Amur tigers and leopards in the wild.