Sumatran Tiger cubs Bandar and Sukacita turn nine months old on May 5—how time flies! One sign that they are making the transition from cubs to sub-adults is that both have started to lose their "baby" incisor teeth. Their adult fangs will take a few months to grow out.
It's all a part of growing up—and it certainly hasn't curbed their appetite. In their native habitat, a Sumatran tiger mother and her cubs would eat their prey together as a group. To align our tiger's experience with those of their wild cousins, keepers also feed Damai, Bandar, and Sukacita as one group. They receive about 77 pounds of meat each week (about 11 pounds per day). In addition to their normal diet, the cubs also receive bones and frozen-thawed rabbits once a week. Although we can't measure exactly how much each cat consumes, keepers can tell from the cats' weekly weigh-ins that Damai is maintaining her weight and the cubs are growing. Bandar now weighs about 120 pounds and Sukacita about 96 pounds!
As we mentioned in the previous update, Bandar and Sukacita had just started training and had mastered "shifting"?going outside and coming inside when called. The cubs are also learning behaviors that help animal care staff evaluate their health, including touching their nose to a target, jumping up on their sleeping bench, as well as laying down and sitting on command.
Recently, keepers began training the cubs to prepare for vaccines and blood draws. The first step was to get the cubs to line up parallel to the front of their indoor enclosure. Both cubs quickly got the hang of that command. The next step (and bigger challenge) is for the cubs to get comfortable with vaccinations. To simulate the prick of a needle, keepers lightly press a stick against the cats' hips. Bandar is much more comfortable with this training than Sukacita at the moment, but she has always been a bit feistier than he! Each time the cats do the action asked of them, they are rewarded with a tasty meatball. This positive reinforcement builds trust between the cats and their keepers.
Aside from interacting with keepers, the cubs enjoy play time with mom in the yard. Socializing with Damai seems to be their favorite past time—and mom seems to enjoy teaching them hunting skills as much as they enjoy learning them! Bandar and Sukacita also enjoy some youngster-friendly enrichment objects such as boomer balls, burlap bags filled with hay, and empty kegs,and they seem to have a good time batting them around. If you'd like to purchase toys for the growing cubs, check out our Wish List.
On Earth Day 2014, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute launched the "Endangered Song Project," an analog-meets-digital outreach campaign that asked 400 participants to help raise awareness about the fact that there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild. We partnered with Atlantic Records' indie band Portugal. The Man to distribute a previously unreleased song titled "Sumatran Tiger." The song was lathe-cut onto 400 custom poly-carbonate records designed to degrade after a certain amount of plays.
So what can you do? Follow the National Zoo on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Scour the internet and search for the song using the #EndangeredSong on sites like SoundCloud, Radio Reddit, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Retweet, repost and tell everyone you know. Visit www.endangeredsong.si.edu to watch a video PSA and to learn more about how you can perpetuate the song and our message.