On Sept. 11, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo welcomed its first critically endangered Malayan tiger cub. With only 250 Malayan tigers left in the wild, the implications of this birth could be massive in the protection of the species both in the wild and in human care.
TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 27, 2016) – On Sept. 11, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo welcomed its first critically endangered Malayan tiger cub. With only 250 Malayan tigers left in the wild, the implications of this birth could be massive in the protection of the species both in the wild and in human care.
The cub was born to “Bzui” (pronounced Ba-ZOO-ee), and is being cared for in a den off exhibit. The pair will likely not be on exhibit for several weeks as Bzui nurses and cares for the cub, as she would in the wild. Bzui came to the Zoo last spring to join her mate, “Mata,” as a recommendation from the Association of Zoo’s and Aquarium’s Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan.
“The cub is growing normally and nursing well,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, the Zoo’s Chief Zoological Officer. “Our Zoo is proud to be working to preserve a species like the Malayan tiger, which is facing a growing number of threats in the wild.”
The Malayan tiger subspecies was not recognized officially until 2004. They are the smallest in size of all tiger species, with an average weight of 260 pounds for adult males and 220 pounds for females. Poaching and rapid habitat decline are two primary causes for their continued population decline, as well as heightened human/animal conflict from expanding human development. For all these reasons, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has determined the Malayan tiger is critically endangered – one step away from becoming extinct in the wild.
The Zoo’s newest cub and its mother have already helped the Zoo learn more about this incredible species. Through positive reinforcement training, Bzui learned to perform behaviors that allowed Zoo staff to get unprecedented access to the mother and developing cub. For example, one behavior might involve presenting her belly so veterinarians can perform an ultrasound and study the cub’s development. Video of staff performing a sonogram can be viewed and downloaded below.
Not only is that information impossible to collect in the wild, but it arms the scientific community with the knowledge needed to maintain a healthy Malayan tiger population in human care – a population that could be critical for proliferation if the wild population continues to decline. Knowledge and data from these observations is shared with a number of AZA-accredited zoos that are also working with Malayan tigers.
Alongside maintaining a breeding program, the Zoo also offers regular tiger trainer talks and demonstrations at the Asian Gardens habitat. By helping guests understand and make a connection with animals at our facility, we can encourage others to care and protect this at-risk species.
For now, the Zoo has no clear images of the cub, because they remain in the den with mom as they would in the wild. Tune into our Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on the cub’s development, photos and announcements concerning when the cub will be introduced to the tiger habitat.