Possible “love connection” could bring cubs by summer

ROYAL OAK, Mich., January 26, 2012 – Kolyma, a 13-year-old male Amur tiger, has arrived at the Detroit Zoo as a potential mate for 8-year-old female Kisa, and zookeepers hope the big cats will make the purrrr-fect pair. 

“Neither Kolyma nor Kisa has produced offspring but we are hopeful that will change,” said Curator of Mammals Robert Lessnau.  But he cautioned, “Animals are individuals and there are no guarantees of success.”

Amur tiger breeding season typically runs from January through April but ovulation can occur every three to nine weeks, allowing for year-round breeding.  The usual gestation period is approximately three-and-a-half months, after which an average of two cubs is born.

“If Kolyma and Kisa mate successfully, we could see cubs as soon as this summer,” said Lessnau.

Named for the region in Russia where the Amur tiger is found, Kolyma (ko LEEM a) arrived from the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin with a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP).  The SSP is a cooperative management plan among AZA-accredited zoos to ensure genetically healthy, diverse and self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species.

The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest subspecies of tiger, growing to 10 feet in length and weighing up to 400 pounds.  Listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, only around 450 Amur tigers are left in the wild due to illegal poaching and deforestation of their natural habitat.