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.
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.
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.
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.