Spotlight Russia: Amur tigers in rehab begin their ‘transformation’

Entering their 11th month in rehabilitation, Borya, Kuzya and Ustin, no longer small cubs, start their transformation.

Come fall and winter months, an Amur tigers' physiology changes significantly. They start accumulating fat they change coats and their daily activity patterns change.

Now our tiger cubs move around their enclosures both at night and during the day.

Each evening the cubs watch each other.

Their enclosures are situated in a way that allows the cubs to see each other at a distance from elevated areas on boulders or small hills. They watch each other every day, at approximately the same time.

At night, siblings Borya and Kuzya like to play. They have many games that include chasing, play-fighting with their huge paws, using objects to fling around, much like domestic cats.

SEE ALSO: Slideshow: what it takes to rehab three Amur tigers in Far East Russia

No longer small cubs, they are now very strong. They can easily carry a large chunk of meat weighing 30 to 45 kg. (65 to 100 lbs.) just by lifting his head a little!

What is interesting is that even grown-up cubs remain tolerant when sharing a large piece of meat.

If one cub is feeding, the other one waits calmly for his turn.

Most often, Borya feeds first and warns Kuzya that he was the first to find this piece by touching Kuzya's head with his paw.

And there is no fight over it.

Kuzya waits patiently, finding something else to do in the mean time, like rolling on his back with paws in the air.

Despite their transformations, on plain sight (through short-circuit TV and remote camera pictures) they do look a lot alike.

So, how do we tell each of the tigers apart?

Each tiger’s stripes form a one-of-a-kind pattern, a signature.

The tigers are all now 12-14 months old, but they have very distinctive patterns.

Borya's unique characteristic is that he has stripe-less areas on both sides of his body. Borya is also slightly bigger than Kuzya. And Borya has additional small stripes on his forehead.

Motion triggered images of Borya.

Unlike Borya, Kuzya practically does not have a stripe-less area on his right side, and the stripe-less area on his left sight is substantially smaller. And Kuzya does not have additional small stripes on his forehead.

Images of Kuzya shot with motion triggered cameras.

Ustin's body is mostly covered with thin stripes, and he has no large stripe-less areas.

Ustin's distinctive characteristic is two large white spots on his head. These spots make Ustin's coat seem lighter than other males' coats.

Fresh images of Ustin, also shot with motion triggered cameras.

Stay tuned for more updates from Borya, Kuzya and Ustin!

--KB

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia