A New Tiger Now Calls the Zoo Home

Posted Date

March 7, 2024


Animal Updates, In The News

If you recently noticed a new resident of Florence Mila Borchert Big Cat Country here at the Milwaukee County Zoo, your eyes weren’t deceiving you! Natasha, an 11-year-old Amur tiger, is now rotating daily with our other Amur tigers, male, Kash, and female, Tula, in the indoor and outdoor habitats and private den.

Basking in the sun

Natasha arrived Nov. 1 from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio as part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Amur Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP). She completed her standard 30-day quarantine — as all incoming animals do — at MCZ’s Animal Health Center, with a few additional weeks stay as she waited to undergo a routine dental procedure. After the procedure in late December, the animal care team received diagnostic results that Natasha has blastomycosis, a serious fungal infection with many unknowns.

Fortunately, the animal care team has experience with blastomycosis, and Natasha was transferred to the Big Cat Country building so she could begin acclimating to her new home while undergoing treatment. Natasha’s prognosis is guarded, and treatment is an ongoing process that can last anywhere from three to six months.

Amur tigers are solitary in their natural range of far-eastern Russia and northeastern China. Here at MCZ, Natasha rotates equally with Kash, 7, and Tula, 14, throughout the day. To tell Tula and Natasha apart, look at their eyebrows — they can be used like human fingerprints for identification. Natasha also has black speckles on her nose, and Tula does not.

Kash and Tula are half-siblings and won’t ever mate, and Natasha won’t be introduced to Kash while she’s undergoing treatment. Natasha has never had cubs — and she and Kash may not even show any interest in each other! The animal care team emphasizes that they’re simply taking their time with Natasha and getting to know her as she recoups.

Investigating Christmas tree enrichment

They note that Natasha is food motivated and that her “menu” preference changes monthly. She’s currently particular to beef and prefers whole prey, like small mammals and birds. Natasha engages with enrichment, making a big mess of ripping boxes and bags. The team often sees her napping on a large firehose bed in one of the private dens. Natasha also finds Jaguar cologne — no pun intended — particularly appealing, rubbing on scented enrichment items. The team is also working on training with Natasha to voluntarily participate in X-rays, so they can take images of her lungs without needing to undergo a procedure.

Visit Natasha at Big Cat Country and share your well wishes for her full recovery! And you can help make a difference for tigers like Natasha by visiting the Tiger Conservation Campaign at http://support.mnzoo.org/tigercampaign.


Fast Facts:

  • Amur tigers are considered Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
  • It’s estimated that less than 500 Amur tigers live in the wild.
  • They’re the largest of all tiger subspecies, with the palest coats and fewest stripes.
  • Amur tigers have the most developed neck fur layer — extra thick to protect them from harsh winter conditions.

For faster entry: Members and pre-ticketed guests, park at West End (enter at 106th St).