Good news, it seems, came earlier this year at the London Zoo for an endangered subspecies. The Sumatran tiger has long been facing extinction, down to about 300 members from 1,000 in the late 1970’s. Its original habitat, Indonesia, poses many threats to the majestic animal, not the least of which is aggressive poaching. However, in a glimmering moment of excitement earlier this year, triplets were born to their Sumatran tiger mommy, and the zoo has released footage of the new cubs (see video below).
February 3, 2014 three bantlings of the rare species were born to their mother Melati, who has been part of the zoo’s Tiger Territory program, started in 2013. The program, designed to further breeding of the endangered creatures, has not been without mishap. In fact, Melati’s recent news is a positive twist of fate for the tigress, which lost one of her cubs just last year, in a mysterious drowning at the zoo.
A 2-week old nursling that had been born to Melati in October of 2013 met its fate in a pool enclosed by the tiger habitat. It’s unclear how the tragic death occurred yet, since then, the body of water has been removed and Melati has been given more space to roam under tight monitoring by zookeepers and surveillance cameras. Now, less than a year later, Sumatran tiger Melati can rejoice over the birth her triplets, all arriving within a minute of each other. It seems, so far so good, as all cubs remain in healthy condition.
Teague Stubbington, resident zookeeper recently stated: “We couldn’t be more delighted with [the newborns]…and with how Melati is responding…” With the zoo crew keeping a cautious safe distance from the tigress mother, the sex of the cubs are not actually clear at this point. The enclosure is truly designed to mimic a natural habitat for the tigers and oftentimes, cameras provide a majority of insight. However, one of the triplets has been nicknamed Trouble “…as it’s much bolder than the others”, Teague added.
The current situation for Sumatran tigers is very grave. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), these animals are the: “smallest surviving tiger subspecies”. They face problems in their natural habitat, including mass deforestation and poaching. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put out an alarming press release a few years back, regarding the endangered subspecies. It claimed 10 percent of retail outlets surveyed in in the region of Sumatra were selling tiger “body parts”, including teeth, claws, and skin. Dr. Susan Lieberman of the WWF added to the release: “… Sumatran tigers are being sold body part by body part into extinction”.
After a 106-day pregnancy, a proud Sumatran tiger mother Melati now watches over her triplet cubs in the protected den at the London Zoo. Meanwhile, father Jae Jae, who also lives in the Tiger Territory, keeps a distance from the newborns. With the number of worldwide Sumatran tigers in the low hundreds, a triplet birth of the subspecies has been great milestone for the London Zoo and: “…for the global breeding program of this critically endangered species”, Stubbington added.
By Josh Taub