The two brothers – named Thor and Odin in honor of the Scandinavian deities, have already reached the age of three months, but remain under the watchful eye of their mother Katrīna, whom zookeepers characterize as a particularly skittish and wary cat even without the responsibilities of motherhood.
Mom is extra protective of her babies, controlling their every move. Thor seems to be the heartier of the pair, weighing in recently at over 15 kilograms, 2 kilos more than Odin. Though they are still nursing, both have been eating meat since reaching the age of six weeks.
The litter is Katrīna’s second attempt at raising a family. Three years ago she delivered her first cubs, but due to construction noise from the street had to seek quieter hiding places and wound up injuring her offspring in the process. Zookeepers were quick to erect a sound-wall this summer so that this tragic outcome could be avoided this time.
Thor and Odin have passed all their veterinary tests and received their vaccinations to allow them to be shown to the public. Latvia’s winter season poses no problem for the natives of Siberia’s cold and snowy climes, so starting Thursday, every day from 10 until 12:30 visitors will be able to watch them romp in their outdoor home grounds. The Zoo’s website, as well as that of sponsor Lattelecom, will run a live stream for those who wish to observe the cubs from the virtual comforts of home.
The Riga Zoo is part of an international tiger breeding program which brought Krakow’s 10-year old tiger Pan Janek to move in with Katrīna last December to see if they might not hit it off. The great cats do not always approve of the matchmaking choices of their breeding program coordinators, however for Pan Janek and Katrīna, it seemed to be love at first sight.
Katrīna was born at the Moscow Zoo in 2007, Pan Janek in Nuremberg, Germany. They have been graded among the top genetically-desirable animals among the known population, therefore making Thor and Odin high-quality descendants that zoologists hope will keep the species alive.
Zoologists from 88 European zoos and Russia are pursuing a joint European breeding program to try to preserve the endangered species, which numbers less than 500 in the wild, and a few short of 300 in captivity. Widespread poaching and deforestation threatens the Amur tiger in its habitats of Russia’s Far East and across the border in China’s frontier wilderness.