Donor gives zoo $1 million for tiger habitat
BRIDGEPORT — Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s fundraising efforts to create a new habitat for its family of Amur tigers received a huge boost with a $1,000,000 donation from longtime zoo supporter, Pamela Hope Kochiss-Werth, said zoo director Gregg Dancho.
After the birth of four 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. Kochiss-Werth stepped forward with a birthday check for the two female tigers, Reka and Zeya, earmarked for a new tiger habitat. The zoo celebrated the cubs’ first birthday on Sunday.
“The existing tiger habitat was built several decades ago and has been on our wish list to expand and renovate. Our intention is to create a habitat more in keeping with 21st century accredited zoo standards,” said Dancho in a news release. “We are overwhelmed with gratitude at Pam’s extreme generosity.”
The Zoo is asking for matching donations, Dancho added.
“Everyone has an opportunity now to help. There’s no donation too small,” he said.
The birthday celebration included the sale of Team Reka, Team Zeya, or Team Tiger Cubs t-shirts, cake and hot chocolate for zoo guests, free tiger bookmarks for the first 500 people through the gate, and two encore presentations of Fostering Felines, a presentation from Animal Care Specialist Bethany Thatcher. Tiger Talks, highlighting the plight of Amur tigers in the wild, took place in front of the habitat throughout the day.
This is the first grant made by Kochiss-Werth’s new foundation, and reflects her individual philanthropy. “As a Bridgeport native, I have many fond memories as far back as 1958, of enjoying wonderful times with my family at Beardsley Park and the Zoo,” she said in the release. “I feel honored and blessed to be able to contribute to the Zoo’s growth, important programs, and life-enriching contributions to Bridgeport and all Connecticut communities.”
When the tiger cubs were born, they had only a 25 percent chance of survival, and were the only two Amur cubs added to the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Amur tiger population in 2017. According to the AZA’s statistics, tigers are thought to occupy less than 7 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. T