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San Francisco Zoo Announces Healthy Baby Tiger Is a Girl

Tiger belly MH

This Sumatran Tiger cub, born at the San Francisco Zoo on February 10 to mother Leanne, has had its first vet check this week... and it was determined that it’s a girl! To minimally interrupt mother-cub bonding, the exam was done in less than 5 minutes, revealing that the five-week-old is in excellent health and thriving under her mother’s care. And since this is a solo cub and there is no competition for milk, the baby has a nice big belly and weighed in at 8 pounds. Her next exam will take place around April 10, when she is 8 weeks old.

The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris) is classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN and is on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The greatest threat to their survival is the destruction of their habitat, followed by poaching. Currently the wild Sumatran Tiger population is estimated at less than 400. As of September 2012, there were 74 Sumatran tigers in captivity at 27 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in North America.

Tiger hugs mom

Tiger sideMH.

Tiger feet MH

Tiger nap MHPhotos 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 9 credits: San Francisco Zoo / Marianne Hale. All additional photos: San Francisco Zoo

“Since the exam, we’ve been able to conduct brief socialization sessions with the cub to get her used to her keepers,” said Corinne MacDonald, Curator of Carnivores and Primates at the San Francisco Zoo. “As we learned with Leanne’s last litter, she is an extremely attentive mother and allows us in the same space as the cub as long as she is able to watch from an adjoining enclosure.” In fact, as the cub grows and becomes more stable on its feet, Leanne has started to bring the cub out of the nest box a few times a day while the keepers watch and is therefore showing her trust in the people who care for her.

Read more about these beautiful tigers, and see more pictures of the cub, after the jump:

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From the island of Sumatra, off the Malaysian Peninsula, these terrestrial and nocturnal cats inhabit evergreen, swamp and tropical rain forests as well as grasslands. As the smallest of the remaining subspecies of Panthera tigris, the Sumatran tiger is particularly well suited for life in the deep jungle.

The fur on the upper parts of its body ranges from orange to reddish-brown, making it darker in color than other tigers. This helps it to hide within its heavily wooded forest habitat. Also unique to this subspecies are distinctly long whiskers, which serve as sensors in the dark, dense underbrush. Males weigh between 200-350 pounds, and females between 180-300 pounds, with a head to body length of 7.2 - 8.9 feet, and a tail length of 2-3 feet. 

In the wild, the carnivorous Sumatran tigers eat mainly wild pigs and sambar deer. While at the Zoo, the tigers receive fortified horse meat, chicken and rabbit. Sumatran tigers are usually solitary and prefer to live alone, except for courting pairs and females with young. Females are sexually mature between 4-5 years and give birth every 2-2.5 years. After a 102-112 day gestation, a typical litter of 3 or 4 is born.

Until recently, there were nine subspecies of Panthera tigris. Three subspecies, the Caspian, Bali and Javan tigers, were deemed extinct between the 1940s and 1970s. Estimates to the six remaining subspecies in the wild are as follows (according to IUCN Redlist): Bengal 1,706, Indochinese less than 2,500, Sumatran less than 400, Amur (Siberian) 360, Malayan less than 750, and the South China tiger is thought to be already extinct in the wild. These remaining subspecies are either listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered.