The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
By Kristen Kromer Staff writer
1 non-Xena graphic.
A rare baby tiger born in captivity has been named Xena!
They have sharp claws, closed eyes and squeaky voices. And cute? Are they ever. Just four days old, Venus, Atlas, Xena and Thor are some of the newest additions to the endangered tiger population. The four Bengal tigers were born at Cat Tales Endangered Species Conservation Park, 17020 N. Newport Highway, and promptly whisked away from their mother, Lil. Zoo Director Debbie Wyche said Lil is lacking in the mothering skills department. ''She wasn't raised by her own mom and she's done damage to cubs before,'' Wyche said. ''She doesn't know the difference between the umbilical cord and the hind feet.'' So, care of the quartet - two boys and two girls - was passed to the Cat Tales staff. The babies now spend most of their time in an incubator to keep them warm, but they'll probably outgrow it by next week, Wyche said. The largest cub, Xena, weighed in at 3 pounds - quite large for a newborn tiger. The others were just slightly smaller. ''It's like holding a 2-week-old cub,'' Wyche said, feeding Thor with a tiny baby bottle. The staff feeds them every three to four hours, and keeps careful records of how much goes in and what comes out. Though everyone loves to help with the babies, the staff is marked by scratches. The cubs' claws are clipped, but they won't retract for three weeks. In seven weeks, the cubs will be introduced to the public for petting. They can be viewed now during the park's normal operation hours, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cat Tales has a waiting list of zoos wanting tigers, but Wyche said they plan to keep the cubs to study their interaction as a family. Cats are typically solitary, but as humans encroach on tigers' habitats, they are forced to live together in family groups, she said. They will neuter the males to prevent inbreeding. ''They are difficult to study in the wild - to get in close is not a normal situation,'' she said. ''But it will be fascinating with four adult tigers together, watching them play and interact.'' Now the cubs - like all babies - do little more than eat and sleep. They lie in a heap, with their tiny, striped legs tossed over each other. A ticking clock reminds them of their mother's heartbeat. If tiger Lil cannot be a good mom, it's clear that Debbie Wyche can. ''We brought them into the world,'' she said, kissing Xena's head, ''so we're responsible for them.'' NOTES: Kristen Kromer can be reached at (509) 459-5593, or by e-mail at email@example.com. [snip]
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