Two endangered Sumatran tiger cubs born at Jacksonville zoo

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The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens celebrated the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs Nov. 20.

The tiger cubs were born to 6-year-old Dorcas at 11:40 a.m., and the tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.

Both cubs are male, and represent the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The zoo’s first Sumatran tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on Nov. 19, 2015 – two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers. 

“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, supervisor of mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother.  She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”

The cubs received their first medical exam Nov. 28. Zoo Animal Health staff said they were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has conducted with the mother. Dorcas was willing and trusting to be separated from the cubs at the request of the keepers.

Dr. Yousuf Jafarey gave the cubs brief physical examinations and determined they look healthy, are nursing well and have no congenital health problems. Both cubs weighed in right at 41/2 pounds. Within minutes, the cubs were back with their mother in the nesting box, behind-the-scenes in the tiger viewing building.

The cubs will not be on exhibit for several months. They still require a series of health examinations and vaccinations and will continue to strengthen the bond with their mom. They will also require a swim test before they are ready to explore their outdoor habitat in public viewing areas. A live video feed of the nest box can be seen in the tiger viewing building on either side of the donor wall.

The birth of two Sumatran tiger cubs is especially significant because the zoo’s tigers are part of a globally-managed species program. Zoological facilities around the world, including Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, work to maintain a healthy population. There are currently less than 400 Sumatran tigers in the wild.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ cubs will help staff highlight the work being conducted in Indonesia to protect Sumatran tigers and their prey. The zoo supports an elite wildlife protection unit consisting of four highly trained rangers, risking their lives to protect Bukit Barisan Selatan (BBS) National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, one of the last of the tigers’ strongholds.

The zoo has supported the unit for the past three years, since the opening of the Land of the Tiger exhibit in 2014. Seventy-five cents of each paid admission are dedicated toward conservation. In the past five years, guests and members have helped the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens contribute more than $1 million dollars to conserving plants and animals in the wild.

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