San Diego

Endangered Sumatran Tiger Cub Flown into San Diego Zoo Safari Park

In an extra dose of cuteness, two baby tiger cubs will bond at the zoo

A bright-eyed Sumatran tiger cub rejected by his mother was flown into the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Monday where he will bond with a new pal.

The 9-week-old cub, who comes from the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., was introduced to another tiny feline: a 7-week-old Bengal tiger cub that was discovered at the U.S.-Mexico border in an alleged smuggling attempt on Aug. 24.

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Since the beginning of August, the Sumatran cub has been fed by people because his mother, Damai, became aggressive towards him, according to the National Zoo. The mother tiger started becoming increasingly violent toward the cub when he tried to nurse, said National Zoo officials. She appeared not to be producing enough milk or had stopped milk production entirely.

The tiger cub is a male about five to six weeks old and in good health, according to experts.

Although they kept trying to reintroduce the cub and his mom, she kept rejecting him, said National Zoo officials. Keepers ended up separating the two but giving them visual access through a unique "howdy door."

The cub would "chuff"-- a friendly tiger greeting -- expressing an earnest desire to spend time with his mom. But she would not acknowledge him, said National Zoo officials.

As time went by, the chances of a successful reunion between the cub and his mom diminished. Their animal care staff decided to send the cub to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

"Now that Damai is no longer displaying the maternal behaviors we once saw, our best option is to pair him with the cub at [the] San Diego Zoo," said Craig Saffoe, curator of Great Cats, in a statement.

He hopes the pair will bond and socialize together so both cubs can grow up to be healthy tigers.

"Having another tiger that is about his age to interact with will be tremendously beneficial to the both of them," added Saffoe. "They’ll be able to play, wrestle and learn how to be tigers together, which is instrumental to his long-term social development.”

It's not common for tigers to reject their cubs but it does happen occasionally, said San Diego Zoo Global officials. This seems to happen more often when there is a single cub as opposed to a large litter.

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The San Diego Zoo has seen this happen before with lion and cheetah cubs as well.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed Sumatran tigers as critically endangered. An estimated 300 to 400 exist in the wild.

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