Born on April 26, Vera has been raised behind the scenes by mother, Sundari (Sun-dar-ee), along with help from dedicated zookeepers. Guests from around the world have watched Vera grow via a special Tiger Cub Cam on the Zoo’s website. With a curious and spunky personality, Vera has become another beloved animal at the Minnesota Zoo.
“Vera has been a handful from day one,” says Diana Weinhardt, Northern Trail curator. “My crew has done such an amazing job helping to care for her and Sundari and we are all very excited for her to finally be able to meet all of her fans in person.”
Vera is set to make an excellent ambassador for the Amur tiger. “The Minnesota Zoo is a leader in wildlife conservation, specifically tiger conservation,” says Dr. Tara Harris, Minnesota Zoo’s vice president for conservation. “Anytime we can make connections between our guests and our amazing animals, we are creating lasting impressions and inspiring them to act on behalf of wildlife around the world.” Dr. Harris also serves as the coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP), and co-convener of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Amur Tiger Global Species Management Plan.
This is the first offspring for mother, Sundari, who was born at the Minnesota Zoo in June of 2012. Father, 7-year-old Putin (Poo-tin) has sired two other litters in Denmark, where he lived before coming to the Minnesota Zoo in 2015 with the assistance of Delta Air Lines, a long-time supporter of the Minnesota Zoo. Putin was brought to the Minnesota Zoo as a recommendation of the Amur Tiger Global Species Management Plan, which is co-coordinated by Minnesota Zoo staff. He is one of the most genetically valuable Amur tigers in the North American breeding program, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP). Coordinated by Minnesota Zoo staff for more than three decades, the Tiger SSP recommended Sundari and Putin as a breeding pair.
The largest of all cats, the Amur tiger is a top predator of far eastern Asia. Its thick fur protects it against the extreme cold and icy winds of winter, while its stripes help render it invisible to prey. Amur tigers are carnivores, eating mostly large mammals such as deer and wild boar. They will travel over extensive forest territories in search of food. With its stealth, speed, and sheer strength, the Amur tiger is well-suited to its role as a hunter.
Poaching – of the tigers themselves and their prey – is the primary threat to the Amur tiger’s survival. Due to conservation efforts, Amur tiger numbers have increased from as low as 20 or 30 around 1940 to approximately 500 today. Through the Tiger SSP’s Tiger Conservation Campaign, the Minnesota Zoo supports efforts to improve anti-poaching patrols in the Russian Far East and to close old logging roads in order to prevent poacher access.
Coordinated by Minnesota Zoo staff since its initiation in 2012, the Tiger SSP’s Tiger Conservation Campaign has raised over $800,000 for on-the-ground projects that are helping save wild tigers. The Campaign aims to reach $1 million in support of tiger conservation by the end of 2017.
The public can learn about and contribute to these efforts by visiting tigercampaign.org and facebook.com/tigercampaign.
The Minnesota Zoo is also one of 15 coalition members that comprise the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (altaconservation.org). These coalition members pool their resources to help support conservation efforts for wild Amur tigers and leopards. Funds contributed by the Minnesota Zoo have helped monitor wild populations of these highly-endangered cats in the Russian Far East.
The Minnesota Zoo is a year-round destination located in Apple Valley, just minutes south of Mall of America. The Zoo’s mission is to connect people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife. For more information, call 952.431.9500 or visit mnzoo.org. The Minnesota Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and an institutional member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).