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Point Defiance Zoo Steps In To Hand-rear Tiny Sumatran Tiger Cub


Last week, vets and zoological staff at Tacoma, Washington's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium decided to hand-rear it's then 6-day-old Sumatran Tiger cub. The cub appeared to be losing weight and was not getting enough milk from his mother.

“It’s in his best interest so he can receive round-the-clock feedings with special formula,” head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf said. Wolf made the decision to move him from the den box in which his mother, Jaya, gave birth and put him in the zoo’s Animal Health Care clinic after she consulted with zoological staff in the Asian Forest Sanctuary.


Photo credit: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

About 200 Sumatran tigers live in zoos around the world. They are native only to the island of Sumatra. There are an estimated 300 in the wild.

Several staff members have extensive experience with tiger and clouded leopard cub births and the subsequent hand-rearing of many of the animals.

"Jaya was not as attentive to this cub as she was to those in a litter she had two years ago," staff said. "She was frequently leaving the den box, and the new cub was not getting adequate nursing opportunities."

"The cub, born Aug. 22, was not gaining weight, was a bit dehydrated, and his temperature was low," Wolf said.

"Separating him from his mother so he can be bottle fed every four hours should help him thrive and boost his weight," she added. But she also cautioned that the first several days “will be critical” to his well-being.

"It’s not unusual for zoo staff to hand-rear a cub when they believe it’s the best way to ensure that the cub flourishes," Wolf said.

“He is very vocal and is off to a good start,” she said. “So far he is showing a positive response to bottle feeding.”

Sumatran tigers are a critically endangered species. The newborn cub at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium makes 74 in North American zoos. He is the sixth cub born in the Species Survival Plan this year.