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Sumatran Tigers Born At National Zoo; Mother, Cubs Doing Well

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
August 8, 2013

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo announced Thursday the birth of a pair of Sumatran tigers, a species that has dwindled to less than 500 in the wild. Both mother and cubs are reportedly doing well.

Four-year-old Damai gave birth on Monday. The new arrivals appear health and, so far, “Damai is being a great mom, and is nursing and grooming both cubs,” the zoo says on its website.

“All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs,” great cats curator Craig Saffoe says.

According to the zoo’s website:

“The Sumatran tiger cubs’ eyes have not opened yet, so Damai is spending most of her time grooming and nursing them. Damai lets the cubs crawl all over her, as if her body is a jungle gym.”

There was no word immediately on the sex of the cubs.

The new family will likely not be on exhibit until late fall because “Bonding time is critical for mom and her cubs,” the zoo says. UUntil then, you can view the zoo’s Tigercubcam here or follow developments on Twitter at #CubWatch.

The National Zoo has been trying to encourage Damai and Kavi, the 12-year-old father, to breed for the past few years and on June 21, officials confirmed via ultrasound that Damai was expecting.

Only about 400-500 Sumatran Tigers exist in their native habitat on the Indonesian island. Their Javanese and Balinese cousins are already extinct.

The Zoological Society of London notes that “the vast majority of captive tigers are known hybrids or of unknown origin and so are not useful for conservation breeding purposes. Only tigers whose single subspecies ancestry can be traced back through written records can be included in conservation breeding programmes.”

The history of such breeding programs appears to have been relatively successful. Damai was born at San Diego Zoo, one of about 25 cubs to be bred there over the years –- including a pair of males as recently as March.

The are similar programs in places such as Melbourne, Australia, where four cubs were born in 2010. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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