Fans of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo are aware that the two female Amur Tiger Cubs, Reka, and Zeya turned one-year-old on Sunday, Nov. 25.
The birthday celebration included free tiger bookmarks for the first 500 people through the gate, and two encore presentations of Fostering Felines, a presentation from Animal Care Specialist Bethany Thatcher. Tiger Talks, highlighting the plight of Amur tigers in the wild, took place in front of the habitat throughout the day. Proceeds from the sale of Team Reka, Team Zeya, or Team Tiger Cubs t-shirts and tiger cub stuffed animals go to a proposed expanded tiger habitat.
Zoo Director Gregg Dancho, who began working at the zoo in 1975, and earned his way up to his current position, has always yearned to have a larger habitat for the Tigers who live there.
After the rare tigers were born, nurtured by caring human “parents” and thrived in spite of their 25% chance of survival, the zoo began an ambitious fundraising campaign to see Dancho’s dream come true, build a massive, more appropriate habitat for these beautiful cats.
While their caregivers placed the cubs’ birthday presents around their enclosure, Dancho addressed the crowd who’d come to attend the birthday celebration.
He gave a brief history of the tigers at the zoo and described the enormity of the proposed upgrade. Then he made a big announcement. Just in time for the Cubs’ first birthday, the zoo received a $1,000,000 donation for the tiger habitat from longtime zoo supporter, Pamela Hope Kochiss-Werth.
“The Zoo is asking for matching donations,” Dancho said, “Everyone has an opportunity now to help. There’s no donation too small.”
This is the first grant made by Kochiss-Werth’s new foundation and reflects her individual philanthropy. “As a Bridgeport native, I have many fond memories as far back as 1958, of enjoying wonderful times with my family at Beardsley Park and the Zoo,” she said in a press release. “I feel honored and blessed to be able to contribute to the Zoo’s growth, important programs, and life-enriching contributions to Bridgeport and all Connecticut communities.”
And at 12 p.m., after the cubs received their presents, guests were treated to chocolate and vanilla striped cake and hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
FACTS: When these tiger cubs were born, they had only a 25 percent chance of survival and were the only two Amur cubs added to the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Amur tiger population in 2017.
Sadly, tigers are thought to occupy less than 7 percent of their original range, according to the AZA’s statistics. Threatened by poaching, tiger-human conflict, habitat loss and degradation, and loss of prey, four of nine subspecies have disappeared from the wild.