Eloise and Bernadette are 2-year-old Amur tiger sisters. Photos by Kelsey Wallace, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo
It’s double the fun in Tiger Plaza this week as the Oregon Zoo welcomes two new Amur tigers, sisters Eloise and Bernadette. The 2-year-old big cats are settling in well at their new home, and have already begun venturing outside to explore their surroundings.
“We’re very excited to have Eloise and Bernadette here,” said Sara Morgan, a keeper in the zoo’s Amur tiger area. “They’re both really playful and they have such distinct personalities. Bernadette is outgoing and always leading Eloise into new situations or mischief. Eloise is a bit more reserved, but still a lot of fun.”
Earlier this month, Morgan traveled to Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin – where Eloise and Bernadette were born —to get to know the tigers and make sure everything was in place for their arrival. She says the easiest way to tell the sisters apart is by their distinct personalities, but Bernadette is a bit larger than Eloise, and her markings are different.
“Tiger stripes are unique to each individual, similar to our fingerprints,” Morgan said. “Bernadette has one stripe on her front left paw and Eloise has two.”
Amur tigers, the largest of the nine tiger subspecies, are at serious risk of extinction, with only around 500 believed to remain in their native range. In addition to poaching and habitat loss, one of the most pressing threats facing these critically endangered cats is lack of genetic variation. Accredited zoos are participating in coordinated breeding programs to help preserve them.
Eloise and Bernadette came to Oregon on a recommendation from the Species Survival Plan for Amur tigers — a cooperative program among zoos that helps create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of animals. These SSPs also support relevant field projects, research and public education to help prevent animal endangerment and extinction.
As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects focused on saving animals from extinction include studies on polar bears, orangutans and cheetahs.
Support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation enhances and expands the zoo’s efforts in conservation, education and animal welfare. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world.
The zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit trimet.org for fare and route information