Rare Sumatran tigers make their Perth debut
17th November 2008, 10:45 WST
Three Sumatran tiger cubs bounded playfully around their Perth Zoo enclosure this morning unaware of their importance in international efforts to save their species from extinction.
The 13-week-old cubs made their first public appearance today but spent most of the time hiding behind bamboo clusters and rocky outcrops, not sure what to make of the extra attention.
Perth Zoo keeper Emma Gatehouse said with just 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, the cubs were a vital part of an international breeding program designed to help save their species.
After 18 months with their mum, Setia, the two males and one female will be moved to zoos in Australia or overseas.
“This is amazing for us, the bigger picture is that we are keeping genetics really strong in the captive population and educating the public about this critically endangered species,” she said.
“Their names are all Indonesian names – the female is Melati, which means ‘jasmine’, Setia’s favourite flower. They bravest boy, Jaya, means ‘victorious’ and the quieter of the two males is Satri, which means ‘valiant hero’.”
Their father, Hari, was transferred from Cairns to Perth in 2007 to breed with Setia.
“We then started introductions with Setia and luckily for us it went quite smoothly, they actually quite liked each other,” Ms Gatehouse said.
After 91 days gestation, the cubs were born weighing a precious 500g each. They have since beefed up to about 9kg and developed strong personalities.
“Jaya is the bravest, he almost prances around, he acts big and tough and strong…the little girl is quite shy, just like her mother, and will generally follow when her big brothers are around, otherwise she tends to keep to herself,” Ms Gatehouse said.
She said the cubs were shy, but with a bit of patience and a watchful eye the public might get to see them.
Environment Minister Donna Faragher said Australasian and European breeding programs were part of global efforts to provide a back-up population to support the survival and recovery of wild tigers in the future.
“Eight years ago, Perth Zoo had its first breeding success with this species with a litter of three cubs. One of those cubs, Setia, is now the mother of these cubs. We hope that in the future these cubs, like their mother, will play an important role in the international breeding program,” she said.
“They are very important genetically to the breeding efforts with a relatively small worldwide captive population of 250 Sumatran Tigers.
“The cubs will also be important ambassadors for their species, highlighting the threats Sumatran Tigers face in the wild, in particular habitat loss and poaching, and raising awareness about what people can do to help save tigers and their habitat.”
Members of the public can support tiger conservation by donating to Perth Zoo’s fundraising program, Wildlife Conservation Action, which supports the conservation of Sumatran Tigers and other threatened species in the wild.