Refuge workers have hands full with seven new cats and two newborns

Friday, June 6, 2008
Caring for two new tiger cubs was Emily McCormack, staff zoologist and volunteer coordinator at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The cubs were born to a recently rescued tiger who arrived at the refuge with her mate of eight years. Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

EUREKA SPRINGS -- On May 29, the staff of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge welcomed seven new cats that had been rescued from Missouri, Texas, and upstate New York.

On May 30 they were surprised when Tigger G, rescued in April from a private home in Missouri, gave birth to three male cubs and the seven cats turned into 10.

According to Staff Zoologist/Volunteer Coordinator Emily McCormack, Tigger G's longtime mate, Ziggy, was neutered upon arrival at the refuge.

The previous owner told them Tigger G had given birth to cubs in January, McCormack said, but they froze to death. She said tigers go into heat again almost immediately if they aren't producing milk.

As a female tiger's gestation period is 93 to 111 days, she said Tigger G was likely impregnated some time in late February.

"Our highest hope, of course, was that Tigger G would care for her cubs," McCormack commented. "The staff and interns scurried around the compound, separating Ziggy from them and making the cage 'baby proof.' The staff rotated every hour throughout Saturday night to check on the mom and cubs."

On Sunday, due to maternal neglect, possibly prompted by new surroundings and separation from her mate of eight years, one of the cubs passed away, McCormack said.

Immediately, the remaining two were pulled from the den and Dr. Rob Wilkinson made an emergency call Sunday to examine the two survivors.

Both cubs are doing well. she said, but added, "this is a very critical time for them. The staff will be working diligently around the clock for their care."

The cubs, who are kept in a playpen inside a staff residence, will not be on display at the refuge until they are strong.

The staff encourages donations towards their care.

The formula they need is expensive, and two baby tigers will be drinking a tremendous amount.

The cubs are also in need of names, and a full sponsorship, which is $2,000 a year, will privilege donors to name one of the cubs or both, McCormack said.

It is not the intent of the refuge to breed -- but to provide a safe haven for those that are rescued, McCormack said.

There was one previous birth at the refuge about seven years ago, she said, a similar situation with a rescued cat pregnant at the time of arrival.

She said there was one other instance when a two-day-old tiger cub was rescued from a circus.

With the care of the current tiger cubs now in capable human hands, Tigger G and Ziggy have been reunited once again.

They are part of a group of 100-plus big cats that live at the refuge. More than half now reside in natural habitats constructed on the 459-acre site.

Safari lodge rentals, sponsorships and fundraising efforts contribute to the habitat effort.

One such fundraiser is the annual Pow Wow at the refuge that is scheduled for Father's Day weekend, June 13-14-15, with crafts, tribal dancing, singing, story telling and more.

Plus, McCormack was excited about the grand opening of four new habitats.

"People can come and watch the cats go out onto the grass their first time," she said.

The habitat grand opening is scheduled for July 4, beginning at 3 p.m., with fireworks planned at dusk.

For more information about the tiger cubs, the refuge or events, telephone (479) 253-5841.

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