Three Sumatran Tigers Born At Nashville Zoo, Cubs Are A Bright Spot In The Big Cat’s Future

The Nashville Zoo has recently announced the birth of three Sumatran tigers, and biologists are excited about the new triplets.

The three Sumatran tigers are exciting because Sumatran tigers(Panthera tigris sondaica) are rare and threatened. They are the last remaining tigers in the region as the tigers in Java and Bali were declared extinct. Bali tigers disappeared around 1937 and Javan tigers may have persisted into the 1970′

The Tennessean says that the three are doing well and the mother is rearing them. They are being kept away from the father so the mother does not fell stress. Stress can cause tigers to harm their young. One cub is male and two are female. Names are yet to be given.

gray and black tiger walking on forest
Tigers are so closely related that researchers have reduced the number of subspecies to two. Panthera tigris inhabits mainland Asia. Panthera tigris sondaica inhabits Malaysia including Sumatra. Photo by TheOther Kev on

The Tennessean said

“They have separate halves of the building,” said Mammal Curator Cinnamon Williams.

. “She can’t even see him because her job is to protect her cubs. We’re trying to keep the building as calm and quiet as possible.”

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, with only an estimated 400-600 left of them in the world. Currently there are around 235 Sumatran tigers under human care globally, with just under 70 cared for in AZA-accredited zoos in North America. The three Sumatran tigers are an important addition to tiger numbers.

Perhaps 50 are in zoos in Australia and New Zealand. The zoo residents are descended from a small pool of tigers so there are issues with genetic problems caused by close relations. So far the problems seen in some cubs have resolved in the first two years.

photo of tiger and cub lying down on grass
Tiger cubs have a close bond with their mothers, Photo by Waldemar on

Meanwhile, on Sumatra, DNA is being used to try to protect the remaining wild population.

San Diego Zoo researcher Mrinalini Watsa has made a major advance using DNA testing and a cell phone app. It’s quite simple. She used a Sumatran tiger living at the zoo as a test subject. She was able to scoop up soil from a pawprint, find tiger DNA in the pawprint and transfer infomation to a cellphone. According to CNN she is refining the technique to be able to identify gender before testing in the wild.

a wild boar in close up shot
Variosu kinds of deer and wlld pigs are on the tiger menu. Photo by Dario Fernandez Ruz on

When it is operational it will give researchers a powerful tool. Previously they could only count pawprints. Soon they will be able to check gender and perhaps even identify individuals, giving them a much better insight into the population.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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