For Release: September 2, 2006
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
National Zoo's Three Sumatran Tiger Cubs Meet the Public
The National Zoo's three Sumatran tiger cubs, two females and one male, made their public debut this morning, Saturday, Sept. 2.
To prepare the cubs for their new outdoor home, keepers and veterinarians at the National Zoo slowly have been introducing the cubs to their outdoor yards during the past several days, for a few hours in the early morning. The cubs explored their outdoor exhibit under the supervision of Zoo staff; this was to ensure the cubs could safely navigate their exhibit and get out of the moat if necessary. Since they were born on May 24, the three cubs have stayed inside, off-exhibit, giving mother and cubs ample time to bond.
The cubs now weigh about approximately 25 to 30 pounds. They represent a multigenerational history of tiger cubs at the National Zoo that included their four brothers, mother, father and grandmother. The first generation is Kerinci, mother of Soyono, the cubs' mother.
This most recent litter is the third for Soyono. Her first litter consisted of one male cub, born in September 2001; her second litter consisted of three male cubs, born in May 2004. All cubs from those litters have been transported to other zoos as part of the Sumatran Tiger Breeding Program. The sire of all three litters, Rokan, lives at the National Zoo.
Male tigers do not stay with the female after mating and do not participate in rearing cubs. The typical litter size of tigers is two to four cubs. Tiger cubs are born blind and weigh only about two pounds. They nurse for up to nine months but begin to eat meat after approximately two months.
While the cubs' public debut was an exciting event for National Zoo staff and visitors, Dr. Mahendra Shrestha, director for the Save The Tiger Fund (STF), reminded today's audience that wild tigers and their habitat are in peril: A recent STF study by Zoo scientists and their colleagues showed that tigers now occupy only seven percent of their historic range in Asia. In fact, this comprehensive study used on-the-ground evidence and land-use information to determine that these big cats inhabit 40 percent less habitat than they were thought to inhabit only a decade ago. Protection from poaching, preserving prey species and guarding habitat will help save tigers from extinction. This can only happen with public support, which made today's event an important tool for conservation: The ExxonMobil Foundation and STF are helping the National Zoo spread the conservation message to more than 2 million Zoo visitors a year.
As part of a long-term commitment to tiger conservation, the ExxonMobil Foundation, STF and Friends of the National Zoo sponsored a contest called Postcards to Protect, where children ages 6 to 12 designed postcards featuring the Zoo's tiger cubs and a message about saving tigers. Megan Seymour, a 12-year-old girl from Fairfax, Va., won the contest and received a trip for four to today's public debut where Zoo Director Berry read her poem. Friends of the National Zoo received 80 entries from 19 states and the District of Columbia. All postcards will be given to STF and then sent to the Centre for Environmental Education in India, where they will be used in a traveling exhibit educating students about the conservation of tigers and other wildlife.
Berry also announced the results of the naming contest for the cubsnearly 20,000 votes were cast between July 21 and Aug. 21. The winning names are as follows, translated from Bahasa Indonesian:
According to The World Conservation Union, Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in habitat that ranges from lowland forest to mountain forest. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 live in zoos around the world. Sumatran tigers are the smallest tiger subspecies, weighing between 200 and 300 pounds when full grown.