The Smithsonian National Zoo has announced that two Sumatran tiger cubs have been born to mother, Damai. On Monday evening, the zoo labeled the wonderful occasion a “conservation success” on their website.
The first cub was born around 6:15 p.m., with the second appearing over two hours later, at 8:23 p.m. The official post indicates that the overseeing keepers are consistently monitoring the family unit’s health, and have no grounds for concern; both mother and cubs are performing well and “appear healthy,” while Damai is “…nursing and grooming both cubs.”
Furthermore, Damai appears to be comfortable with her keepers’ presence, as suggested when she came out of her den, while zoological workers of the Smithsonian were performing duties in the Great Cats building. The Sumatran mother consumed her meal, without any concern for her cubs, before returning to their side.
Sumatran cubs are an endangered species, with fewer than 500 of the creatures present in the wild. As posted on the Smithsonian website, Craig Saffoe talked about the difficulty of engendering the two cubs’ inception, and what this means on a personal level:
“It’s taken more than two years of perseverance getting to know Damai and Kavi and letting them get to know each other so that we could reach this celebratory moment… All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs. Damai came to us as a young tiger herself, so it’s really special to see her become a great mom.”
Keepers noticed Damai had been gaining weight, and demonstrating classic signs of pregnancy, right around June. The staff members were able to train Damai to willingly participate in ultrasound scans to confirm, and subsequently monitor, the progress of the cubs.
This is Damai’s first litter of cubs. Mother, cubs, and 12-year-old father Kavi, are currently on display at the Smithsonian. The couple mated from December 2012 to April 2013.
The zoological group has put in place a webcam feed, enabling animal lovers the chance to coo and clamor at their monitors. The National Zoo announced it will be broadcasting “… every milestone for the next several weeks via live webcams.” The milestones, to which the group refers, includes the cubs opening their eyes, becoming increasingly mobile and, perhaps, traversing other accessible den areas. At times, there seems to be a distinct lack of animals of any sort, but zoo officials explain this could be due to the mother moving the cubs to other, untelevised dens.
The birth of these Sumatran tiger cubs comes as a welcome surprise after the hard graft and labor put in by Smithsonian employees.
By: James Fenner