Two Malayan Tiger cubs were born at the Virginia Zoo on January 6. The two males arrived, about 12 hours apart, to parents Api and Christopher.
The cubs were born after the typical 103 days gestation to a healthy mother. However, with several hours of close observation, the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary staff were not comfortable with the level of care that first-time mom Api was giving.
After much internal discussion and consulting with the National Species Survival Plan Chair for Malayan Tigers, the decision was made to remove the cubs from the mother and hand-rear them.
At the time of their removal from mom, the first cub weighed 1.6 pounds while the second weighed 2 pounds. Virginia Zoo staff are following previously developed hand-rearing protocols, and both cubs are active and thriving.
Tigers are born blind and helpless and are typically nursed by the mother for about two months, after which they will be introduced to a meat diet. In the wild, tiger cubs will begin to hunt for their own food at about 18 months of age.
The Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is a subspecies that is native to the southern and central parts of the Malay Peninsula. There is no obvious difference between the Malayan Tiger and the Indochinese subspecies. However, aside from their geographic differences, the Malayan Tiger is somewhat smaller in size. The Indochinese Tiger is noted as being smaller than the Bengal and Siberian Tigers.
The Malayan Tiger is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Major threats are: habitat fragmentation due to development and agriculture, commercial poaching and a domestic market for meat and bones for medicine.
With less than 300 of this critically endangered subspecies in existence, the birth of these two brothers demonstrate the Virginia Zoo’s significant contribution to a sustainable breeding population of the species, as well as the Zoo’s long term commitment to the conservation of the species in the wild.