News release from zoo:
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s fundraising efforts to create a new habitat for its Amur tigers received a big boost today–Global Tiger Day–with a pledge for $2.5 million from the City of Bridgeport. Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim, a longtime Zoo champion, announced the city’s contribution in a press conference in front of the Amur tiger habitat and two of the Zoo’s three Amur tigers. Ken Kochiss represented his sister, Pam Hope (Kochiss) Werth at the event, the Zoo’s first donor for the new habitat. Zoo Director Gregg Dancho, members of the Board of Directors, volunteers, and Zoo guests attended the special ceremony at noon.
After the birth of four extremely endangered Amur tiger cubs in November, 2017, two of which survived, the Zoo began a campaign to create a new, more spacious home for its valuable tigers. Pamela Hope (Kochiss) Werth first stepped forward with a $1 million pledge for a new tiger habitat.
Additional fundraising has been ongoing. The city’s contribution will allow architect’s renderings to be finalized, and a plan for construction to begin, part of the Zoo’s goals for its 100th anniversary in 2022. The Zoo hopes to begin construction in spring 2020.
Chris Barker, Animal Care Specialist for the Amur tigers, welcomed guests and said that the global population of Amur tigers is only about 500 individuals in the wild, emphasizing the need for human intervention and zoos to save the species.
Dancho said, “Pam Kochiss Werth’s pledge to us for a million dollars got the ball rolling to enlarge the tiger habitat, built in the late 1970s. We have a Zoo architect working on phase one of these plans. As we move toward our one hundredth anniversary in 2022, this habitat will be moving forward, too, thanks to the City of Bridgeport’s support.”
Kochiss remarked, “We’re just absolutely thrilled. We’ve been lifelong residents of Bridgeport. We were kids here with fond, fond memories of the Zoo growing up. Pam’s happy to do this, and we’re glad that the mayor and the city of Bridgeport are jumping in and expanding (plans).”
The mayor thanked the Kochiss family for their generosity and announced that the city was pledging two and a half million dollars to the construction of a new habitat. “This is the state’s only Zoo. Come and see it, come and enjoy it! People need to know what a great place this is for young people and, as PT Barnum said, children of all ages to come and enjoy. It’s a great opportunity to share wildlife and nature.”
The Zoo named Mayor Ganim an Official Hero for Tiger Conservation, acknowledging his support for tiger conservation and the family of animals at the Zoo.
Dancho concluded, “Zoos today serve as lifeboats for endangered species, offering both a place of sanctuary and a Species Survival Plan to ensure that the species doesn’t vanish. The City’s support ensures that we can continue our important species saving work, with our focus on animal welfare.”
Global Tiger Day is celebrated worldwide, to highlight the plight of endangered tigers. Amur tigers, once known as Siberian tigers, are very rare. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) statistics, today’s tigers are thought to occupy less than seven percent of their original range. Threatened by habitat loss and degradation, poaching, tiger-human conflict, and loss of prey, four of nine subspecies have disappeared from the wild just in the past hundred years. The future of the Amur tiger has been a major concern of the world’s zoos for many years.
About Amur tigers
The Amur, or Siberian tiger, is a rare subspecies of tiger, and the largest cat in the world. Adult male tigers can weigh up to 675 pounds, with females weighing up to 350 pounds. Chang is small for a female Amur tiger, weighing 297 pounds. Reka and Zeya weigh approximately 180 pounds each, but they will continue to grow. Similar to people’s fingerprints, no two tigers have the same striped pattern. Amur tigers differ from other tigers with fewer, paler stripes, and a mane that helps to keep them warm. They live in southeast Russia as well as small areas of China and North Korea. They live for 10-15 years in the wild, and up to 22 years in captivity.