Food is delicious! It took a few weeks, but the cubs have finally decided that meat tastes good and will also fill their tummies.
Actively nursing four little ones, Tajiriiri’s appetite has increased as well, so she consumes a good amount of meat daily. The cubs have all of their baby teeth and are ready at this stage to take in more calories through solid food. Staying under the shelter of her hind legs, they first started to taste just the little scraps of meat that mom left when she ate.
As keepers, once we’ve seen the babies realize that solid food is worth the effort of coming out of the den to eat, we then actively begin target feeding them as well. Feeding is an important step in building a relationship with the keepers. Tajiri maintains her position as mom, not wanting to go far from the cubs to eat, so we started by rolling small balls of meat back to the cubs while feeding Tajiri at the front of the mesh.
In just the last several days, the cubs all began to approach the keepers at the front of the mesh with Tajiri at feeding time. Since the cubs have realized that the keepers are the source of the meat, we use two keepers to feed the family. One person focuses on Tajiri and any cubs at her feet, and one keeper works on enticing any other cubs to feed to the side. This is working well, and as a group they are currently consuming nearly 18 pounds of fortified ground meat daily!
By Kay Buffamonte, KeyBank Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper