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STARS IN STRIPES; FOUR BENGAL TIGERS BORN AT CAT TALES; XENA LEADS WAY AT 3 POUNDS


Posted 02/11/99

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
01/20/99
By Kristen Kromer Staff writer
Page B1
1 non-Xena graphic.

EXCERPT

COMMENTARY
A rare baby tiger born in captivity has been named Xena!

PRIMARY SOURCE

   They have sharp claws, closed eyes and squeaky voices. And cute? Are they
ever.

   Just four days old, Venus, Atlas, Xena and Thor are some of the newest
additions to the endangered tiger population.  

   The four Bengal tigers were born at Cat Tales Endangered Species Conservation
Park, 17020 N.  Newport Highway, and promptly whisked away from their mother,
Lil. Zoo Director Debbie Wyche said Lil is lacking in the mothering skills
department.

   ''She wasn't raised by her own mom and she's done damage to cubs before,''
Wyche said. ''She doesn't know the difference between the umbilical cord and the
hind feet.''

   So, care of the quartet - two boys and two girls - was passed to the Cat
Tales staff.

   The babies now spend most of their time in an incubator to keep them warm,
but they'll probably outgrow it by next week, Wyche said.

   The largest cub, Xena, weighed in at 3 pounds - quite large for a newborn
tiger. The others were just slightly smaller.

   ''It's like holding a 2-week-old cub,'' Wyche said, feeding Thor with a tiny
baby bottle. The staff feeds them every three to four hours, and keeps careful
records of how much goes in and what comes out.

   Though everyone loves to help with the babies, the staff is marked by
scratches. The cubs' claws are clipped, but they won't retract for three weeks.

   In seven weeks, the cubs will be introduced to the public for petting. They
can be viewed now during the park's normal operation hours, Wednesday through
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

   Cat Tales has a waiting list of zoos wanting tigers, but Wyche said they plan
to keep the cubs to study their interaction as a family.

   Cats are typically solitary, but as humans encroach on tigers' habitats, they
are forced to live together in family groups, she said.

   They will neuter the males to prevent inbreeding.

   ''They are difficult to study in the wild - to get in close is not a normal
situation,'' she said.

   ''But it will be fascinating with four adult tigers together, watching them
play and interact.''

   Now the cubs - like all babies - do little more than eat and sleep. They lie
in a heap, with their tiny, striped legs tossed over each other. A ticking clock
reminds them of their mother's heartbeat.

   If tiger Lil cannot be a good mom, it's clear that Debbie Wyche can.

   ''We brought them into the world,'' she said, kissing Xena's head, ''so we're
responsible for them.''

NOTES:
    Kristen Kromer can be reached at (509) 459-5593, or by e-mail at
kristenk@spokesman.com.

[snip]


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