The recent birth of Sumatran tiger triplets at the ZSL London Zoo is a story that includes something for everyone. First of all, the clumsy balls of fuzz surely register high on anyone’s cuteness scale.
Then there’s dramatic tension: Sumatran tigers are one of the rarest creatures on Earth, with just 300 individuals left in existence. The threat of extinction is very real, and we could see these creatures disappear within the decade.
How about a comeback story? The triplets were born to the five-year-old tigress, Melati, who lost her first cub six months ago after it tragically drowned in a pond within the enclosure. It was the first death of a Sumatran tiger at the ZSL London Zoo in over 17 years.
And now the cubs’ dramatic story has been broadcast to the world, courtesy of hidden cameras in the tigers’ birth den. The cubs were born in the early hours of Feb. 3 after a 106-day pregnancy. This video captures their first days, and was just released this week.
Eyes on the Cubs
The tiger family is now under constant surveillance, zookeeper Teague Stubbington said in a news release:
“We’ve been observing them 24/7, and one of us is always on duty to keep an eye on the little ones throughout the night. We’ve even been able to observe key milestones like their eyes opening and their tentative first steps. While we still don’t know whether they’re boys or girls, we’re starting to see their personalities develop. We’ve nicknamed one Trouble, as it’s much bolder than the others – it was the first to start exploring its den and we’ve spotted it waking up its siblings when they fall asleep!”
The birth of the triplets represents a big achievement for the global breeding program to strengthen the numbers of the critically endangered tiger. Sumatra is one of the islands in Southeast Asia most affected by modern development and expansion. Poaching has been the major cause of tiger deaths, along with casualties from human-tiger conflict where development encroaches on habitat.
The zookeepers say they’ve taken extra precautions to prevent the accident that occurred with Melati’s first cub. A zoo spokesperson told The Guardian that the pond has been drained, and zookeepers are vigilantly monitoring the cubs.
So, it looks like this made-for-Hollywood story could come complete with a happy ending. In the meantime, enjoy watching these rare creatures experience their first moments in the world.