Tacoma, Wash. – Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is celebrating the birth of two tiger cubs. Jaya, a 6-year-old Sumatran tiger gave birth on Tuesday.
Staff have only seen the cubs on video surveillance from inside the tigers’ behind-the-scenes nest box, but they say Jaya and the two cubs appear healthy. A third cub was born with the litter, but died during birth.
“We’re heartbroken to lose one of them so early, but the rest of the group seems strong and active,” said staff biologist Andy Goldfarb. “We’ll keep a close eye on them as Jaya learns her role as a first-time mom. But right now, we believe the remaining cubs will thrive.”
Tiger cubs, generally about 2 pounds at birth, rely entirely on their mother for the first three months. The cubs at Point Defiance Zoo will live behind the scenes for several weeks, and visitors will have the chance to see them through a video monitor set up in the zoo’s Asian Forest Sanctuary.
At about eight weeks old, tiger cubs are generally ready to leave the den with their mother, and staff will attempt to get the cubs into their exhibit around that time.
“We want people to see them as soon as they’re ready,” Goldfarb said. “They’re sure to be crowd pleasers, but they’ll also be educational ambassadors, bringing a note of optimism about their species directly to Northwest families.
The two new cubs bring the total number of Sumatran tigers in North American zoos to 74. There are fewer than 500 left worldwide.
“Sumatran tigers are among the world’s most critically endangered species,” said general curator Karen Goodrowe Beck. “These cubs not only add to the overall population, but they also provide invaluable genetic diversity to the breeding program.”