Trick or meat: zoo tigers celebrate Halloween birthday

Amur tigers Mikhail and Nicole turn 14 this week at the Oregon Zoo, and keepers plan to treat the brother-and-sister pair to a Halloween-themed birthday bounty: a meatball-studded cardboard birthday cake, scented papier-mâché party balloons, and some pumpkins stuffed with delicious carnivore snacks. The tigers, wearing orange and black for this (and every) occasion, will receive their goodies at 10:31 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31.

"Nicky and Mick will probably check everything out first, take in all the sights and smells," keeper Sara Morgan said. "They might bite off some birthday candles and roll the pumpkins around with their paws. Eventually, they'll get around to eating the meat that's hidden inside."

Members of the zoo's volunteer enrichment team created the holiday-themed birthday items, while keepers and zoo veterinarians planned the contents. The enrichment items — all made from nontoxic materials — are designed to encourage the tigers' natural sensory, predatory and exploratory behaviors.

For visitors, the day's festivities will also include a trick-or-treat party for little tykes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the zoo's Tiger Plaza. PDX Kids Calendar, Tears of Joy puppet theater, Spielwerk Toys and ZooGuide volunteers will present games, prizes, crafts and photo opportunities, all focused on the birthday tigers.

Mikhail and Nicole were born on Halloween 1998 at the John Ball Zoological Garden in Grand Rapids, Mich. They moved to the Oregon Zoo on Sept. 12, 2000.

The Amur tiger derives its name from the Amur River of southeast Russia, to which this subspecies is native. They are among the most endangered big cats in the world: fewer than 500 are believed to remain in the wild.

North American and European zoos are participating in coordinated breeding programs to help preserve these critically 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 wild Amur tigers and leopards.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
 
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
 
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 | hova.najarian@oregonzoo.org
Ian Gillingham | 503-220-2448 | ian.gillingham@oregonzoo.org