The Sacramento Zoo reports the birth of a Sumatran tiger cub, born on Thursday, March 18, 2010. This is the second litter for Bahagia, the female and Castro, the male; their first litter of three male cubs was born in November 2006. Bahagia and baby appear healthy at this early point in the baby’s life; the Zoo is hopeful the cub will continue to thrive.
Tiger cubs are about two pounds (1 Kg) at birth, born with eyes closed and rely entirely on their mother for the first three months. Mother and baby will be inside the den, away from public view, while the baby gains strength and coordination. Castro, the male, will be on exhibit daily. A second cub sustained severe head injuries and did not survive.
“After the loss of the baby anteaters this month, the birth of the Sumatran tiger and sorrowful death of a second cub is emotional for the Zoo staff,” said Mary Healy, Zoo Director. “We are guarded at this time, but we know Baha is an experienced mother who will do her best to take care of this very special cub especially during the important first few months of development.”
The Sacramento Zoo veterinarians did perform an ultrasound on Bahagia to assess pregnancy in early December 2009, however, no cubs were apparent at the time. With a gestation of just under 100 days, it appears the tigers likely bred just after the date of the ultrasound. Animal Care staff monitors the cats' body weights regularly, but saw no significant changes in the tiger's weight or her behavior over the past months; therefore, they had no reason to suspect a pregnancy this late in the season. The veterinarians will perform follow-up health checks on the cub over the next week.
Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra off the Malaysian Peninsula. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 Sumatran tigers live in zoos around the world. The Zoo participates in the Sumatran tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP), coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who recommended the breeding of the Sacramento Zoo tigers. SSPs are cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity, and to organize zoo- and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature.