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Are you a #StlZooperHero? This summer, we are excited to bring back our annual Instagram Contest with a special 2020 edition. Learn how you can enter for a chance to win a $125 Zoo gift card at #StlZooperHero Instagram Contest

July 29, 2020

#TigerAwarenessDay

Welcome to #TigerAwarenessDay! Our Zoo along with many accredited zoos across North America are raising awareness about tigers and their conservation. Meet Waldemere and Kalista, the Amur tigers we have the privilege of caring for here at the Saint Louis Zoo! One of my favorite tiger behaviors is to hear them chuff to each other. The chuff is a happy, soft sound tigers make as a friendly greeting. Tigers are endangered; one of the biggest threats Amur tigers face is habitat loss and fragmentation due to illegal logging/overharvesting. As they lose habitat, they lose prey, and as roads are developed to access their remote habitat, there is increased access for poachers, which are another significant threat to tigers. Wild Amur tigers inhabit forests and bush-covered mountains of eastern Russia and northeastern China. In these ranges they are apex, and also top indicators of the health of their entire ecosystems, so protecting tigers also protects an immense wealth of other species sharing the ecosystems. By supporting the Saint Louis Zoo, you are helping tigers, as we participate in the Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan— so thank you! –Carrie Felsher, Carnivore Zookeeper 

Tiger Health

As Carnivore Keepers at the Saint Louis Zoo, part of our job is to catch a tiger by the tail! Ok, well, not literally...but our tigers Kalista and Waldemere are actually both trained to let us handle their tails for routine blood draw training. Since both tigers are older cats, it is important to keep a close eye on their health. Just like with humans, one way to do that is through blood work. Through positive reinforcement operant conditioning, both of our tigers regularly allow us to draw blood samples from their tails while another keeper/trainer –reinforces the behavior with the tigers' favorite treat –meatballs! This behavior is completely voluntary and the tigers can walk away at any time, however, they are almost always enthusiastic participants. This is one way keepers , the veterinary team and the tigers themselves cooperate to provide our cats with the best possible care.  - Carolyn Kelly, Carnivore Keeper 

Which Tiger?

Tigers are some of my favorite cats and Kalista and Waldemere are the reason behind that. They each have such big personalities but are so very different from each other. Kalista tends to be more focused on the people and Waldemere tends to observe from a distance, until he is comfortable with you. We do have two tigers at the Saint Louis Zoo but you will never see both at the same time, as only one goes into the public habitat at a time. If one is in the habitat, the other one is resting inside the animal care space. They swap habitats twice a day so they have equal opportunities to be outside  and inside. If you come to Big Cat Country first thing in the morning and then again at the end of the day, you will likely see two different tigers! Caring for these two is such a great experience. There is nothing better than looking around the corner and seeing Waldemere playing with and chuffing at a ball or coming in first thing in the morning and having Kalista chuff at you. We love to celebrate #TigerAwarenessDay here at the Zoo, but we also  celebrate our tigers each and every day! – Jackie McGarrahan, Carnivore Keeper

Tiger Noises

One of my favorite things about tigers is their different vocalizations. Tigers make a vocalization called the prusten, more commonly known as a chuff. Every morning when you walk into Big Cat Country, you are greeted with a chuffing tiger! This type of vocalization is a non-threatening, friendly and happy greeting. A chuff is normally very quiet and is accompanied by an up and down motion of their head. The noise is a product of the animal pushing air through their nose, while their mouth is closed, which produces an airy snort. Did you know tigers can also roar? A lion’s roar is very spectacular, but a tiger’s roar is just as unique! Tigers are typically solitary animals, except for a mother and her young. Even though they are a solitary species, that does not mean they are antisocial. Chuffing and roaring are just two examples of how tigers communicate with one another.  They also use scent/urine marking, visual cues like scrapes or claw marks, as well as other vocalizations like moaning or growling. We observe our two tigers communicate with one another in a variety of ways on a daily basis! – Carnivore Keeper Mary Witucki