A single male Sumatran tiger cub was born at 1:54 a.m. Sept. 14 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail, to first-time tiger parents Teddy and Joanne. Although Joanne cared for the cub the first few days, keepers noticed he was losing weight, and felt he wasn’t receiving the proper care he needed to thrive. The Safari Park’s animal care team then made the difficult decision to hand-rear the cub. He was moved to the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park, where he is now being cared for around the clock.
The cub is the 26th endangered Sumatran tiger to be born at the Safari Park, and he is the first cub to be hand-reared at the park since 1984. At the care center, he’s being bottle fed seven times a day—with a formula made especially for carnivores that is easy to digest, made from goats’ milk.
“We’re very happy with our little cub’s progress; he took to the bottle and started nursing right away,” said Lissa McCaffree, lead keeper, Mammal department. “He’s been gaining weight very consistently each day, and last night he reached a milestone—he opened his eyes for the first time.”
The cub now weighs 3.36 pounds and is gaining strength in his legs, walking around his nursery enclosure. He’s also learning to make tiger vocalizations, such as meows, grunts, and low chuffing sounds. Chuffing is a vocalization tigers make as a way to express excitement, or as a greeting.
Guests will be able to see the cub in the near future at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park during his bottle feeding times, which will be posted daily in front of the viewing window.
With the addition of this tiny cub, the Safari Park is now home to seven Sumatran tigers. There are fewer than 350 Sumatran tigers in the wild, and that number continues to drop. Scientists estimate that this species could be extinct in its native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve it.