By Linda Goldston
Article Launched: 02/25/2008 06:03:30 PM PST
Leanne the tiger is expecting.
The 230-pound Sumatran tiger could give birth to one to four cubs as early as this weekend or a week from now, San Francisco Zoo officials said Monday.
“There is no pregnancy test for cats, so we have to take our best guess,” said Barbara Palmer, chief keeper of the big cats.
The zoo also greeted the arrival of another baby on Monday: a 150-pound giraffe. Mother and daughter were doing fine.
To help keep 4-year-old Leanne stress free, Palmer moved the tiger away from the other big cats – including the father, George – and is working on building “the perfect nesting box,” with extra heat, “a little privacy” and a camera so zoo keepers can watch the tiger remotely without disturbing the expecting mom.
The zoo also has decided to postpone today’s planned resumption of the public feedings of its lions and tigers to keep commotion at a minimum. The feedings were stopped after a Siberian tiger attacked and killed a San Jose teenager and injured two of his friends on Christmas day.
“I’m excited but like a worried mother,” Palmer said. “There are a lot of things to pull together.”
Sumatran tigers are endangered, with only about 400 left in the wild, about 60 in American zoos.
Zoo officials had expected the birth in about a month but Chief Veterinarian Jacqueline Jencek recalculated the time last weekend.
“With cats you just have to judge by appearance and watching the estrus cycle,” Palmer said.
Leanne gained about 40 pounds, to almost 230. No ultrasound was taken because it would have required the use of anthesia.
The zoo has four lions and four tigers. It is normal for a tiger to have between two to four cubs.
Early Monday, sometime between 3 and 6 a.m., Gezi the giraffe gave birth to a female calf. The baby weighs about 150 pounds and fell five feet to the ground.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have another giraffe born,” Bob Jenkins, director of animal care and conservation, said in a statement. “The herd of three females and one male giraffe has made the San Francisco Zoo’s new African Savanna home since 2004.”
Floyd, the male, “has been quite prolific” and fathered five calves since then, Jenkins said.
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