As the world prepares to celebrate Global Tiger Day this Saturday, July 29, Great Cats keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo have some big news to share about the 2-week-old Sumatran tiger cub in their care: it appears to be a boy! Over the past few days, keepers have been able to get a quick look at the cub and weigh him when mother, 8-year-old Damai, leaves the den to eat and defecate. The cub appears to be healthy and strong. Shortly after birth, he weighed about three-and-a-half pounds. Yesterday, he weighed six-and-a-half pounds.
“It can be difficult to determine the sex of a neonate cat because genitalia can look very similar for the first few weeks,” said Craig Saffoe, curator of Great Cats. “However, at a glance, it appears that Damai has a male cub! His first veterinary exam will take place in a couple of weeks, which includes a physical exam and vaccinations. We should be able to confirm the cub’s sex during that exam.”
The cub’s birth July 11 marked an important milestone for the Zoo: this is the second litter for mother Damai but the first for 13-year-old father, Sparky. Keepers are monitoring Damai and her offspring via a closed-circuit camera, allowing the family time to bond. Although the cub will not make his public debut until later this fall, Zoo visitors can see Sparky and the cub’s half-sibling, 3-year-old male Bandar, at the Great Cats habitat. The Zoo will provide updates on the cub on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists play an active role in saving tigers in their native habitats by studying and working to protect them in range countries. In collaboration with USAID and local partners, SCBI scientists collect and analyze field data on tiger behavior, prey and habitat. In the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh, camera traps are used to estimate the Bengal tiger population size. In an effort to prevent poaching and mitigate human-animal conflict, SCBI scientists train rangers to patrol the forest and provide them with equipment to assist population management.
The Zoo is home to Sumatran tigers, which are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that between 300 and 400 exist in the wild.