Three Sumatran tiger cubs born at California zoo

Daily Democrat
Article Launched: 12/21/2006 09:39:51 AM PST

Three tiger cubs, all doing well.

That was the report from the Sacramento Zoo as it announced the birth of three Sumatran tiger cubs, born on Friday, Nov. 24.

Upon arrival that day, the zoo keepers heard baby tiger vocalizations from the cubbing box and had a glimpse of a tiny tail. The following day the three cubs received their first physical exam. At that time the veterinary staff determined all three cubs are male and are in good health. They are receiving check-ups every week, are gaining weight steadily and seem to be in good overall health.

All three cubs are moving around, tumbling over one another, and snuggling up to their mother, Bahagia. This first time mother is being very attentive and gentle. Tiger cubs are born blind and helpless at only about two pounds and rely entirely on their mother for the first three months. As of Dec 6th, the cubs are just starting to open their eyes and have doubled in weight.

Less than a week after the Sacramento Zoo unveiled its state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, the female tiger was sedated, moved to the hospital and prepped for an ultrasound due to her suspected pregnancy. This exciting procedure was viewed by the public through the large windows on the observation terrace. When the ultrasound revealed three fetuses, the crowd outside cheered. The cubs were born 10 days after mom’s health check.

The successful birth is a milestone for the Sacramento Zoo. The zoo staff has worked hard to get a breeding pair of tigers at the zoo and then get the pair behaviorally compatible.

The mortality rate of Sumatran cubs in the wild and in captivity is between 30 and 40 percent, and is higher with first-time mothers.

Tiger mothers in captivity have been known to abandon or injure their cubs when stressed or nervous. Keepers have worked closely with Bahagia to get her used to the daily routine and allow examination of the cubs.

This is the first litter for Bahagia and her mate Castro. The cubs will stay in the dens with their mother behind the scenes while they gain strength and coordination. Until then, the cubs will not be in the public exhibit; however their father will be on exhibit daily.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra off the Malaysian Peninsula. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 Sumatran tigers live in zoos around the world.

The zoo participates in the Sumatran tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP), coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. SSPs are cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity, and to organize zoo- and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature.

The Sacramento Zoo is located near the corner of Land Park Drive and Sutterville Road in William Land Park. The Sacramento Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekday general admission is $7.50, seniors $6.75 and children ages 3-12 are $5. Weekend general admission is $8, seniors $7.25 and children ages 3-12 are $5.50. Children two and under are admitted free. Parking is free and available throughout the park.

For more information, call 916/808-5888 or visit the zoo’s Web site at


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