The birth of an endangered animal is always a cause for celebration, and so the arrival of not one but a litter of five rare Siberian tigers born in Everland on June 27 was a very happy occasion. These three females and two males were bred naturally by tiger mother Geon-gon and father Tae-ho, and are growing stronger by the day.
Although Siberian tigers were once plentiful throughout the Korean Peninsula and continental Northeast Asia, they were widely hunted for their fur. Today there are only about a thousand of these big cats alive in the world, and the species is listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as threatened with extinction. This is why tiger breeding programs are important and every live birth is celebrated.
Generally speaking, Siberian tigers, also known as Korean or Amur tigers, tend to give birth to litters of two to three, making the birth of five cubs at once all the more significant.
Five little tigers, growing big and strong
Tigers are blind at birth. Their eyes open in the first seven days, but they cannot see clearly for six to eight weeks. That makes them dependent on their mother for nutrients. Kim Soo-won, an Everland zookeeper, said, “If any of the five cubs gets pushed out in the competition for her milk, mother Geon-gon takes extra care of it to make sure it gets fed.” Weighing in at close to one kilogram at birth, the cubs grew quickly to between 5 and 6 kg in their first 70 days, and have recently begun eating meat that has been ground up for them.
Each tiger cub is already showing off its individual character: the first, a girl, normally seems mature but is quite gluttonous and won’t take a back seat to anyone when it’s mealtime, while the second, a boy tiger, is the most playful and active, but at the same time a scaredy-cat (pun intended). The third is the gentlest and most timid, but becomes brave when she sees food, and the fourth, a male, is a cat filled with curiosity who actively approaches the keepers. Meanwhile, the last-born sticks timidly to her mother, but is also said to be the boss who plays tricks on her brothers and sisters.
With such distinct personalities, it seems that the five will soon come into their own as social media stars, just like two-year-old tigers Tae-beom and Mu-gung, Geon-gon and Tae-ho’s first litter.
At the moment, the baby tigers are known by their birth order alone, but to commemorate 70 days since their birth, Everland is holding a naming contest online to select a permanent moniker for each of them. Wait and see what their official names will turn out to be!
Everland’s role in conserving endangered species
Having been certified by Korea’s Ministry of Environment as a non-habitat conservation agency in 2003, the Everland Zoo is constantly striving to build up its expertise in animal care and breeding know-how for the conservation of at-risk fauna.
Since 2018, Everland Zoo has taken part in a project to create a wildlife corridor for Siberian tigers near the Tumen River to prevent the big cats from becoming isolated by railways and roads and to increase the area in which they can roam.
Furthermore, Everland’s become the first zoo in Asia to be awarded the highest level of global accreditation as assessed by the U.S.-based Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and is unceasing in its efforts to build an ecological animal park where both humans and animals can be happy.