February 20, 2013
Well the bad news is that Damai was not pregnant as a result of the single breeding during her last heat. The good news is Kavi and Damai have really improved their skill set when it comes to procreation!
We had been keeping our fingers crossed after their last attempt but were not too disappointed when Damai showed signs of coming back into heat. Tigers, like most cats, are induced ovulators: It is the act of breeding itself that causes the female to release her eggs so that they can be fertilized. With only one breeding, the odds were not in our favor for a pregnancy. It was a different story this time around.
Damai is more outgoing than Kavi so it can be a little difficult to tell if she is in heat by her behavior. She is always happy to see him and “chuffs” (a tiger noise of greeting) at him whenever she sees him. Kavi is more of the strong, silent type. He will give her a short chuff when he comes inside but is generally more interested in eating his dinner and then going over to his sleeping enclosure and curling up in his big fluffy hay pile. So when he started hanging around in front of the mesh door that separates them and forgoing the comforts of his bed, we knew something was up. Then he started calling to her when she was outside and vocalizing to her when she was in sight and we knew it was time for more introductions.
We got everything set up as we had for the last round of introductions. When all the keepers were ready and all the safety equipment was in place we opened the door that separated Damai and Kavi. We had been hoping for fireworks. We were disappointed. Kavi paid absolutely no attention to Damai. Damai eventually approached Kavi and then crouched low on her belly in a provocative position called lordosis. We had no idea he could move so fast! OK we knew he could but we hadn’t seen him do so. Instead of approaching her slowly and cautiously as he had in the past, he leapt on top of her and roughly grabbed the scruff of her neck in his teeth. Damai was understandably frightened by this change in tactics and whirled around and as the saying goes, “gave him one upside his head!” That ended the introductions for the day since NO one was feeling romantic any more.
The next day we tried again. This time when opportunityand Damai presented themselves, Kavi found the right balance. He was forceful enough to keep her from scooting away from him but not so much so that she regarded it as a hostile act. They successfully bred twice during the introduction that day. We continued to do at least one intro every day over the next week and most days we did two. Now that Kavi had brought Damai around to his way of thinking, she became quite enthusiastic. Most of the intros lasted about an hour during which time they would breed 8 to 10 times, always at her invitation. This is just the kind of activity you want to see to make sure that ovulation occurs.
So we are fairly optimistic about the chances of Damai having cubs in three months or so. We will ultra sound her in a few weeks and see if we can find out for sure. Keep your fingers crossed!