Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo will say goodbye next week to Reka, a female Amur tiger born at the Zoo, as she moves to a new permanent home.
Born on November 25, 2017, Reka and her sister Zeya were raised by the Zoo’s animal care staff when their mother, Changbai, displayed no interest in her cubs. Zoo guests and supporters have followed Reka and Zeya’s journey from newborns whose survival was uncertain to the healthy young adult tigers they are today.
Managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), inter-regional transfers are arranged with careful attention to gene diversity in the hope that successful breeding will take place. Last year, Zeya was sent to Rosamond Gifford Zoo as an excellent genetic match to that Zoo’s resident male tiger. Reka’s new home zoo will announce her arrival once a standard quarantine period is complete later this fall. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo remains home to Reka and Zeya’s mother, Changbai.
Amur tigers are very rare and are critically endangered in the wild. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) statistics, today Amur tigers are thought to occupy less than seven percent of their original range. Threatened by habitat loss and degradation, poaching, tiger-human conflict, and loss of prey, four of nine subspecies have disappeared from the wild just in the past hundred years. The future of the Amur tiger has been a major concern of the world’s zoos for many years as the species has been pushed toward extinction.
There is an SSP program in place for many species of animals through oversight by a group called the Taxon Advisory Group (TAG). The SSP makes breeding recommendations based on genetics, age and health of animals, and need for more of the species to protect future populations. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s Deputy Director, Don Goff, is the Co-Chair of the National Felid TAG group. He leads a committee of AZA-accredited zoo members whose goal is to save declining species.
“As sad as we are to say goodbye to Reka, the planned transfer of animals to other member zoos ensures the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population,” explained Goff.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has had repeated success in breeding endangered species, a testament to the Zoo’s animal care specialists and the highest quality of animal care. The Zoo has been the birthplace of multiple endangered species in recent years, including Amur tiger cubs, maned wolf pups, red wolf pups, three baby Giant anteaters, and two Amur leopard cubs.