Cupid Aims His Arrow at Naka and Booskin

Fri, 02/12/2010

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. –February 12, 2010 — Cue the Barry White and dim the lights. Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is planning on bringing together Naka and Booskin, the two Amur tigers in residence, to be introduced for the very first time. The Zoo is attempting to mate these large cats as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a national effort to ensure the survival of certain endangered species. Naka (pron. Nuh-‘KAH), the female, arrived at the Zoo last fall, while Booskin, the male, arrived in December 2008. If successful, the pair’s cubs would be born in the spring.

“It is pure coincidence that this first attempt at mating these tigers comes around Valentine’s Day,” explained Gregg Dancho, Zoo director. “Though Amur tigers can mate year-round, most cubs tend to be born in the spring, making February the perfect time to bring Naka and Booskin together to help ensure a successful cycle.”

Female Amurs give birth to two to three cubs, which may stay with their mom for up to two years. The Amur is a critically endangered subspecies of tiger. Only approximately 300 of these great cats survive in northern Asia and suffer from habitat loss and poaching.

The mission of the AZA SSP is to help ensure the survival of selected wildlife species. The program started in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America.

The SSP governs all aspects of the mating process. Protocols are in place to ensure that both tigers and their cubs are safe and protected. Before the Zoo can attempt to mate the tigers, the SSP requires that certain safeguards are in place. These include the availability of at least four stalls for nesting, the ability to have cameras on the cats at all times and having a hand-rearing program in place, should Naka struggle with caring for her young.

“The tigers have been kept in separate exhibits since they arrived at the Zoo, so we don’t yet know if this is a love match,” noted Dancho. “From a genetic standpoint, Naka and Booskin are a perfect for each other, but genetics are only part of the equation. Their personalities have to mesh, as well.”

Naka is ‘petite’ in comparison to her male counterpart, Booskin. Naka weighs in at approximately 275 pounds compared to Booskin’s 400 pound girth. Both may be seen, in adjoining exhibits, during the Zoo’s daily hours of operation. These enormous cats have pale yellow-orange fur above that shades to creamy white below. They have a long fur coat (up to 3 inches along the belly) to protect them in temperatures to 50 degrees below zero. All tigers have pale blackish stripes with a distinctive pattern on the face as unique as a fingerprint.

Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $11.00, children (ages 3 -11) and senior admission (62 and older) is just $9.00, and children under 3 years old are free. Zoo members also are admitted free. Parking at the Zoo is free of charge.

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About Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo: Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Visitors won’t want to miss our Amur (Siberian) tigers, ocelots, red & maned wolves, Andean (spectacled) bears, and golden lion tamarins. Other highlights include our South American rainforest with free-flight aviary, the prairie dog exhibit with “pop-up” viewing areas, the New England Farmyard with goats, cows, pigs, sheep and other barnyard critters, plus the hoofstock trail featuring bison, pronghorn, deer and more. Visitors can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful carousel. For more informati