Bashir and Arya – Malayan Tigers Carnivore Courtship

Tiger courtship and breeding behavior is, well, complicated.  Tigers are solitary animals and only seek out a potential mate when it is time to breed.  Introduce them at the wrong time and you may find one or both tigers pretty unhappy to be in each other’s company, and risk a scuffle where someone could get hurt.

This is where behavioral science comes into the picture.  Asian Trek curator Petty Grieve has been carefully monitoring and documenting Arya’s behavior over the last several months. She has overlaid observed behaviors with hormonal analysis to determine what cues signal she’s ready to breed. After watching hundreds and hundreds of hours of video taken round-the-clock, and many pounds of tiger poop sent to the lab for hormone testing, Petty has found that Arya’s signs of cycling include vocalizations, restless movement at night, and frequent rolling around. These signs, combined with the insights on when to anticipate these hormonal spikes, have brought them to the next phase of their courtship, which is introducing Arya to male Bashir.

Arya has shown a preference for Bashir, and they often lock eyes when they see each other through the indoor viewing areas of Tiger Forest.  If they are compatible, the zoo will then begin to watch for breeding behavior while they are together. The gestation period for tigers is 90 days, and if introductions go well, the zoo could possibly be on cub watch in early 2020.

This introduction process is an important milestone in establishing Zoo Knoxville’s breeding program for Malayan Tigers.  With fewer than 400 estimated to be left in the wild, their future depends on the work being done in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to save them from extinction.

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