Big Cats were a big focus at the Zoo this past year. While staff and volunteers worked with guests on making a roaring impact for big cat conservation by supporting sustainable palm oil in Buck Base Camp, the action for the cats—both behind the scenes and on exhibit—continued to play out all season long.
At the beginning of the year, a young pair of Amur tiger brothers joined our collection. Having traveled from the Columbus Zoo, Dmitri and Wiz adapted quickly to their new home. Once construction was completed in the spring, the boys were the first cats to try the new Crossing segment over the main path, and showed everyone how much big cats really enjoy watching guests from above.
While Big Cat Crossing construction still loomed overhead, keepers worked with the young adult lions on becoming a couple. Tajiri was very excited to spend time with Makini, but Makini needed some time to consider the pairing. After several weeks, they were successfully committed to each other and spent every day and night together. By Mother’s Day in May, Tajiri was showing all the signs of an advanced pregnancy.
The opening of Big Cat Crossing brought a lot of activity! Nearly all of the cats in Big Cat Falls were given the opportunity to view the Zoo differently using the new elevated tunnel system, which included moving outside of KeyBank Big Cat Falls in a segment that ranged high above the activity below. Each cat seemed to use the space at their own pace. The tiger boys were most intrigued by visitors directly beneath them, while Emma, our female Amur leopard, spent her time taking in the long range view to watch guests approach from a distance.
Tajiri and Makini became first-time parents to healthy quadruplets in June. During the summer, keepers worked to assist the new mother as she raised the litter. In September, mom and cubs were ready to make their public debut, and by November, Makini joined them, and the family was fully integrated.
In this incredible year, the Zoo realized met conservation goals, grew its cat collection, received coverage from with media around the world, and provided guests and animals alike with unprecedented exposure to innovative exhibit design that increased animal welfare and guest understanding. Thank you for your support!
By Kay Buffamonte, KeyBank Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper