Photo of the Day #6: Three tiger cubs and a tire

Tiger Cubs

It's a whole new week, so I'm moving away from the artiodactyl theme (for now, at least) and the PotD will probably take on a more random aspect for a while. Today's photo is of the tiger cubs Terney (center, with tire), Changbai (left), and Koosaka (right), born at the Philadelphia Zoo a few months ago. They are Amur (or Siberian) tigers, Panthera tigris altaica, the largest of the extant tigers and also critically endangered. While the zoo notes that they contribute to tiger conservation initiatives like the Tiger Conservation Fund, it seems that these cubs will remain in captivity and there seems to be no active breeding program with the goal of release into the wild active at the Philadelphia Zoo.

More like this

This is one of the three Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) born this past year at the Philadelphia Zoo. Despite such breeding success in captivity, however, it is difficult to release captive bred tigers back into the wild and animals bred in zoos do not contribute to replenishing depleted wild…
Dave Hone - who's had more than his fair share of mentions here at Tet Zoo over the past several days - accompanied me on a visit to Marwell Zoo yesterday. We had a great time, but unfortunately got all too little paper-writing done :) (after all, this is what scientists normally do when they meet…
A male Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) at the Philadelphia Zoo. To the best of my knowledge this animal is not involved in any breeding or conservation programs.According to LiveScience, a female Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) was captured, examined, and released by WCS workers…
This is Zeff, one of the Amur (or Siberian) Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) at the Bronx Zoo. She may look rather fierce in the above photo, but actually it's not so much a picture of a snarl but a yawn. The picture below directly preceded the one above, although somehow it isn't quite as…

I was under the impression that tigers, and most animals for that matter, hardly ever, as in almost 0 percent of the time, breed successfully in captivity.

By Ben Hardisty (not verified) on 14 Oct 2007 #permalink

Ben Hardisty, you haven't been to many good zoos lately. For many endangered and threatened species, there are Species Survival Plans so that the animals can be not only bred, but bred with a proper mix of genes for maximum diversity. That's why animals (or their semen) are moved from zoo to zoo on breeding loan. A lot has been learned about each species' breeding requirements in recent decades. For info on SSPs see and for info on (as an example) 18 panda cubs born at Wolong Reserve in China in 2006, see

By Tina Rhea (not verified) on 14 Oct 2007 #permalink

Thanks for the comments Ben and Tina. Some animals are still difficult to breed in captivity, Ben, but there has been much success in recent years. Much of it has to do with updates in technology and changes in zoos; the concrete pens ringed with iron bars of the past were not very conducive to breeding. In fact, it seems that the larger battle in the past was keeping the infants alive once they had been born. Artifical Insemination has also been a big help when doing it "the old fashioned way" doesn't work. Pandas are probably the biggest success story, but big cats like lions, tigers, and leopards have had a much longer success record.

From what I can tell from the AZA site, though, most of this breeding is done to keep the animals in the zoos, the animals that are returned to the wild usually being ones endemic to the country which the zoo is in. Such programs might keep the species "alive" in captivity, but unless it is matched (or even exceeded) by conservation programs for wild stocks we could still lose the remaining populations of some animals. Indeed, my own standpoint is that when all the orangutans are gone in the wild, for instance, we have lost the orangutan no matter how many are alive in zoos. There are some zoos that are truly committed to conservation, however, the WCS (which runs the major zoos and aquaria in New York) being a good example of an organization running good zoos and working for conservation of wild groups.