Escondido, California - The San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed a new arrival today: a 9-week-old endangered Sumatran tiger cub. The male cub flew to San Diego earlier today via a commercial flight from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., accompanied by his keepers.
Animal care staff from the Safari Park were on hand at San Diego International Airport to meet the cub and the keepers upon their arrival. The young tiger was immediately transported to the Safari Park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center, where he will continue to receive the care he needs.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome this tiger cub to the Safari Park,” said Andy Blue, associate curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “His keepers reported he did extremely well during the flight—slept most of the way. Our priority now is to ensure he continues to thrive and acclimates well to his new surroundings.”
The cub was born July 11 at the National Zoo to mom Damai, who is on a breeding loan to the National Zoo from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. When the cub was about 19 days old, keepers noticed Damai began displaying aggressive behavior toward him when he tried to nurse and suspected that he might not be receiving proper nourishment. Keepers began providing the cub with supplemental feedings, and his mom continued to care for him attentively.
However, on Aug. 23, it became apparent to keepers that Damai was becoming increasingly aggressive to the cub. They suspected the cub’s mother was either not producing enough milk or had stopped producing any milk at all. Keepers moved the cub to a separate enclosure right next to Damai’s, with a “howdy door”—a door that provides the opportunity for mom and cub to see each other and interact through a mesh screen—with the hope of being able to reintroduce mom and cub. But on Sept. 4, Damai was displaying signs she had entered estrus (a mating cycle), and keepers knew the reintroduction would not be possible.
Both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the National Zoo are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and in a collaborative effort, both zoos’ animal care teams determined the best solution for the well-being of the National Zoo cub was to transfer it to the care of keepers at the Safari Park.
The animal care staff at the Safari Park currently are caring for another male tiger cub that was confiscated on Aug. 23 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, during a vehicle inspection at the U.S./Mexico port of entry near San Diego. That cub remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so it would not have been possible to send him out of state to join the cub at the National Zoo.
Initial plans were to introduce the two cubs to each other in the next few days, after the cub from the National Zoo settled in and became acclimated to his new surroundings. However, because the young cub did well on the flight and showed no signs of stress upon his arrival at the nursery at the Safari Park, animal care staff decided to introduce the two tigers for a brief period this afternoon. The cubs took to each other immediately, and interacted by wrestling, jumping and engaging in a lot of friendly roughhousing—things tiger cubs do. Keepers will keep a close on eye on the cubs for 24 hours, and if all goes well, guests at the Safari Park will be able to see them through the nursery window at the Animal Care Center tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.