Bosses at Doncaster’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park are hoping they will soon be hearing the pitter patter of tiny tiger feet after two big cats were introduced to each other for the first time.
Female Tschuna, aged three, has spent the last six months settling into the Land of the Tigers reserve as part of a breeding programme helping to preserve the Amur Tiger species, which is under threat in the wild.
She has finally been introduced to visitor favourite Vladimir, four, who has been at the Branton park for nearly three years.
Staff watched anxiously as the Amur Tigers came face to face for the first time.
They said that despite being almost twice the size of his new mate Vladimir was intially terrified of his new female guest.
YWP director Cheryl Williams said: “We had been waiting for what we thought was the right time to introduce them.
“But it was a nerve-racking time when we let them in together. You can’t know for sure what will happen.
“Tschuna was so tiny next to Vlad but she still made the first move and wanted to play.
“At first he was a complete wimp and was horrified.
“Then he decided that she wasn’t so bad after all and now they are getting on well.
“We will now wait for them to get to know each other and hopefully they will breed within the coming year.”
Both tigers have been handpicked for the best genetic diversity by the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme for the Amur Tiger.
Added Cheryl: “It would be wonderful to have some cubs for both the Amur Tiger population and for visitors to the park who donate a lot of money every year for tiger conservation in the wild through the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance.”
Amur Tigers, are a critically endangered species and there are only 450 left in the wild.
They were introduced to breed as part of a global campaign to save them.
Tschuna, rejected by her mother at birth, was originally hand-reared at Wuppertal Zoo in Germany before moving to Dudley Zoo and then to the park’s purpose-built reserve last November.
Caring for a beast that’s endangered in the wild
Amur Tigers are the largest of all the big cats and are critically endangered in the wild due to poaching for their skin and bones for medicines in the Far East and to loss of habitat.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park supports the conservation efforts to save these beautiful animals by raising funds for ALTA (The Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance) and for Wildlife Vets International.
In the wild tigers are solitary with a male’s territory encompassing three or four females’ territories so it is very natural to keep two females and one male.
The environment will be very stimulating for all three tigers, especially with its large, natural enclosures with mature trees, pools and hiding places.