CINCINNATI -- Sometimes life just isn't fair. Three sisters at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden can attest to that.
Endangered Malayan tiger cubs Chira, Batari and Miss Izzy are turning 1 year old on Saturday with a hardly a fraction of the pomp and circumstance Fiona the hippo got for her birthday two weeks ago.
Like Fiona, the trio survived an uncertain, difficult period after their birth . First-time mom Cinta’s maternal instincts did not kick in and vets removed them from the den, concerned that the cubs' body temperatures would dip too low without the warmth of mom's body.
Blakely, the zoo's 6-year-old male Australian shepherd came to the rescue as a nanny , providing snuggly comfort to the three young tigers.
“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room," said Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff. "He teaches them proper tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive. This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
They each weighed just 2.5 pounds at birth, but all three now top 150 pounds, according to the zoo's curator of mammals, Mike Dulaney. Dulaney said they've started shedding their baby teeth as they head toward adulthood.
The zoo is taking advantage of the colder winter months, when these young tropical tigers are not on view in their outside habitat, to upgrade their off-view tiger bedroom areas. Construction should complete by early March, just in time for the three young females to start venturing back out into Tiger Canyon.