Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Distemper – latest threat to Siberian tigers...

Distemper - a virus afflicting domestic dogs and many wildlife species - may be a growing threat to Siberian (Amur) tigers.

A team of Russian veterinary colleagues and health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo are collaborating to understand more about how the virus is affecting the species, helping conservationists formulate health measures to counter this latest threat to the world's largest cat.

The team of health experts, working at the Wildlife Conservation Society's wildlife health centre at Bronx Zoo, used histology along with PCR and DNA sequencing to confirm and characterise the infection in two wild Siberian tigers from the Russian Far East.

This diagnosis provides long-awaited genetic confirmation of the fact that distemper is affecting wild tigers, which WCS and Russian colleagues first documented in 2003.

Tiger wandered into village looking for an easy meal
Last year a tigress known as Galia - studied by WCS researchers for eight years in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve in the Russian Far East - walked into the village of Terney, displaying abnormal neurologic signs. She was seemingly unfazed by the new surrounding, appeared gaunt, and was searching for dogs as an easy meal. The tiger was shot by local police after several capture attempts failed.

In November 2003, a similar event occurred when an otherwise healthy looking wild tigress walked into the village of Pokrovka in Khabarovski Krai. WCS staff immobilised the animal and worked with local Russian veterinarian Evgeny Slabe in treating the tiger, which later died in captivity. Samples for the diagnosis of distemper were collected only from these two animals.

But several other examples of tigers entering villages or stalling traffic on major roadways - behaviour possibly indicative of distemper - have been reported in recent years.

Already known to kill lynx and bobcats
Distemper is found worldwide in domestic dogs and has caused infection and death in wild species such as lynx and bobcats in Canada, Baikal seals in Russia, lions in the Serengeti ecosystem in Africa, and raccoons and the endangered black footed ferret in the United States.

‘With all the threats facing Siberian tigers from poaching and habitat loss, relatively little research has been done on diseases that may afflict tigers,' said Dale Miquelle, WCS Director of Russia programmes. ‘There are no records of tigers entering villages and behaving so abnormally before 2000, so this appears to be a new development and new threat. Understanding whether disease is a major source of mortality for Siberian tigers is crucial for future conservation efforts.'

Anatoly Astafiev, director of Sikhote-Alin Reserve, said: ‘We have seen a fall in tiger numbers within our reserve, so it is very important to know that at least one of the causes is a recognisable disease, something we may be able to address and potentially prevent.'

Canine distemper is controlled in domestic dogs through vaccination. In Africa, massive vaccination campaigns of dogs in villages surrounding the Serengeti appear to have been effective in reducing the disease's impact on lions.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rare white Siberian tiger is born at Brown’s Zoo

A white Siberian male tiger cub was born at the zoo on Sept. 8. The cub has been named Bogdan which means "Gift of God" in Russian.
At birth, Bogdan weighed a mere 1.5 pounds. Now, he weighs in at 6 pounds and has a good appetite.
White tiger cubs typically have an 80 percent mortality rate, so the celebration of this new addition is especially great for zoo owners Nancy and Ivan Brown.
"He is a blessing to us. In the wild he would have died," explains Nancy of her precious gift.
The zoo has the only white Siberian tiger exhibit in the state of Illinois and has been the only family-operated zoo in the state for the last 21 years.
Nancy explains the sad part of the story is that the cub's mother died, due to complications of the birth. A second tiger cub was stillborn. "That makes him (Bogdan) very special to us," remarks Brown, who said it was remarkable that he went to a bottle within six hours of his birth. Bogdan will not be able to see until he is about six weeks old and the Brown's are anxious to see if his eyes remain blue, or turn to brown just like his mother's eyes.
Most people think a white tiger is a Siberian, but that is not accurate, says Nancy. Subspecies of tigers can also be white in color.
"The white tiger started years ago with a white tiger being captured in the wild and brought into captivity in India," says Nancy, who has done her homework.
That tiger "Mohan" was bred to his daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and so on, explains Brown of the linage. With such a long line of inter-breeding, there is an 80 percent mortality rate in the cubs which also can suffer with scoliosis and respiratory problems. "We are fortunate to have a healthy cub. There have been no other white tigers found in the wild since Mohan," Nancy emphasizes. She explains experts in the field expect wild tigers to be extinct in a generation. There are less than 200 Siberian tigers in the wild, currently.
The Browns have raised exotic animals at their rural location for over 30 years. "We have rescued quite a few animals over the years from various situations," says Nancy. The zoo, family owned and operated since 1990, started out with a single pot-bellied pig and a few whittle deer.
The zoo currently has an expectant lion and leopard. Nancy says the cubs will be born this fall.
Currently, the zoo has over 40 different species of animals - some are endangered species. Visitors can find lions, tiger, bears, leopards, cougars, bobcats, wolves, a kangaroo, and much more.
Zoo animals are feed approximately 150-200 pounds of meat per day, 50 pounds of dog food, 50 pounds of grain, 100 pounds of hay, and other specialty feeds for some of the animals.
The zoo is located southwest of Smithfield, Ill., at 17732 N. Dairy Farm Rd. Hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday. The zoo opens on May 1 and continues those hours until Labor Day.
After Labor Day, the zoo is open on weekends from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday and from noon until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Appointments are taken from those wishing to the visit the zoo during the week.
During Spoon River Scenic Drive on Oct. 1, 2, 8 and 9, the zoo will be open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Visitors will be allowed to feed the big cats, bears, and hoof-stock animals. They can also have their photo taken with Bogdan the new white Siberian tiger cub.
Nancy says, "We have turned our home and land into a place where we can promote and help to insure the future existence of animals, some of which are endangered. We are dedicated to the animals and want to provide them with a safe place to live in a stress-free environment. Our work is a labor of love and we truly love what we do."
In addition, the Browns say they just want to bring happiness to their visitors.
The Browns have learned through hands-on experience and have studied to keep abreast of information on their animals.
The zoo is visited by people from throughout the United States each year. Some tell Brown they are fulfilling a lifelong dream to see a certain species, or to pet a wild animal. No matter what the reason, Brown has many interesting stories to tell about her animals and their visitors.
The zoo is solely supported by admission, photo fees, and donations. The zoo travels with offsite exhibits to schools, nursing homes, libraries, camps, birthday parties, business promotions, and provides educational programs throughout the state.
Anyone who has trouble finding the zoo, or who needs assistance, can phone 309-783-2112.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Siberian Tigers Trained To Live In Wild

A Siberian tiger is seen at Erdaohe Tiger Park July 2, 2006 in Antu County of Yanbian Chaoxian Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

A feeder plays with a Siberian tiger cub at Erdaohe Tiger Park July 2, 2006 in Antu County of Yanbian Chaoxian Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)


A feeder trains a Siberian tiger cub at Erdaohe Tiger Park July 2, 2006 in Antu County of Yanbian Chaoxian Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, China. About 15 artificially-fed Siberian tigers from Harbin Siberian Tiger Park are being trained to develop their ability to live in the wild. The wild Siberian tiger is listed as one of the most endangered species in the world, with its existing number estimated at around 400 worldwide, mainly in the northeastern part of China and the Far East of Russia. Reportedly there are more than 1,300 Siberian tigers which have been raised in China. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Siberian tiger cubs make public debut

Three Siberian tiger cubs made their public debut at Russia's Krasnoyarsk Zoo this week.
Excited visitors gathered to meet the triplets, who were born at the zoo on August 5, 2011.
The zoo has a tradition of giving its tigers floral names.
Local media reported that the cubs have been named Kaktus, Jasmin and Narciss (Cactus, Jasmine and Narcissus).
Their parents Iris and Kedr (Iris and Cedar) have already had seven cubs.
Siberian tigers are one of the world's rarest species. An estimated 300 are left in the wild, mostly in Russia's Far East.