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Peeking in on Point Defiance cubs

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on May 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm with No Comments »
May 26, 2010 1:13 pm

Fresh in from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, here’s a video feed of the new Sumatran tiger cubs and mom.

Here is Jeff Mayor’s earlier story about the new additions.

Jaya, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s 6-year-old Sumatran tiger, is a mom.

Zoo officials are watching as she cares for two tiger cubs after giving birth on Tuesday. This is Jaya’s first litter.

A third cub died during birth.

Zoo staffers have seen the cubs only via a video surveillance camera inside the tigers’ nest box, but they say Jaya and the two cubs appear healthy.

“We’re heartbroken to lose one of them so early, but the rest of the group seems strong and active,” staff biologist Andy Goldfarb said in a news release. “We’ll keep a close eye on them as Jaya learns her role as a first-time mom. But right now, we believe the remaining cubs will thrive.”

Tiger cubs weigh about 2 pounds at birth and rely entirely on their mother for the first three months. The cubs at Point Defiance Zoo will live behind the scenes for several weeks. Visitors will have the chance to see them through a video monitor set up in the zoo’s Asian Forest Sanctuary.

Once they reach about 8 weeks old, tiger cubs are generally ready to leave the den with their mother, and staff will attempt to get the cubs into their exhibit around that time, possibly the end of July.

The two new cubs bring the total number of Sumatran tigers in North American zoos to 74. With fewer than 500 left worldwide, zoo staff stress the significance of the cubs to the species as a whole.

“Sumatran tigers are among the world’s most critically endangered species,” general curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said in the release. “These cubs not only add to the overall population, but they also provide invaluable genetic diversity to the breeding program.”

Point Defiance Zoo participates in the Sumatran tiger Species Survival Plan, coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The coalition manages the Sumatran population in North America.

Experts with the plan recommended Point Defiance Zoo breed Jaya with the cubs’ father, Bali, last summer. At the same time staff confirmed Jaya’s pregnancy last month, Bali was diagnosed with cancer. A test on May 18 showed positive progress from Bali’s chemotherapy treatment by zoo veterinarians.

“He’s not cured, but his life may be prolonged, thanks to the dedication and skill of our veterinary team and collaborating veterinary oncologist,” Goodrowe Beck said in the release. “Visitors will be able to see him on exhibit while his cubs grow with mom behind the scenes.”

The public will be able to vote on names for the cubs once they are safely settled and the staff is able to determine their gender.

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