The Minnesota Zoo’s Northern Trail is about to get a lot cuter.
An endangered female Amur tiger cub was born last week — a highly anticipated addition to the Apple Valley zoo’s breeding program, which aims to sustain a reserve population of endangered animals for the wild.
The cub is the first offspring for mother Sundari, who was born at the zoo in 2012. Zookeepers initially cared for the cub by hand because Sundari wasn’t showing enough maternal instinct, but the mother-daughter pair has since been reunited. About three-quarters of Amur tiger cubs survive their first 30 days.
A naming contest will be held for the fluffy feline, who will remain behind the scenes with mom until she’s strong enough for visitors, officials said. Until then, guests can watch videos of the 2½-pound cub at mnzoo.org/tigercub2017.
“This is a significant birth for the Minnesota Zoo and for Amur tigers more broadly,” said Diana Weinhardt, Minnesota Zoo’s Northern Trail curator.
The birth comes on the heels of two tiger deaths at the zoo last year. Molniy, the Minnesota Zoo’s oldest tiger, died in December after a string of health complications. The cat suffered from arthritis and was nearly 17 years old — the equivalent of about 80 in human years. Nadya, a 3-year-old tiger, died unexpectedly in May.
The new cub is the result of a match with the zoo’s remaining male, 7-year-old Putin. Before moving to Minnesota in 2015, Putin sired two litters in Denmark. He is now considered the most genetically valuable Amur tiger in the North American breeding program.
Since its launch in 2012, the Tiger Conservation Campaign has raised more than $750,000 for field projects that help save wild tigers.