Tiger Cubs make first public appearance at Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Tiger mania has officially hit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with four new tiger cubs making their big debut.
March 11, 2014 4:22:28 PM PDT
Tiger mania has officially hit the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with four new tiger cubs making their big debut.

Dozens of people lined up outside the exhibit, Tuesday afternoon, to catch a rare glimpse of the endangered species as the nine week old Malayan tiger cubs came out of their den to investigate their new habitat for the first time.

"It was great. He had a great old time when they came out. He's still looking," said Fresno resident Shane Sherman as he held is two year old son Pierson in his arms.

"Once the tiger cubs came out the gate, the kids were screaming with excitement and the last two were really hesitant to come out because they heard the noise. And then the tiger Mom went over and nudged them and they became really playful."

The two males and two females known as Berani, Cinta, Arya and Batari are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Program. A program designed to maintain healthy, self-sustaining, genetically diverse tiger populations as a last insurance policy from losing the cats completely.

"Fresno Chaffee Zoo in having six cats, the two parents and four offspring, that makes up 10% of the captive population so it's huge and we're really excited for these four to become part of a breeding program in a couple years and add to those numbers, said Fresno Chaffee Zoo Assistant Curator Lyn Myers.

Myers said, right now there are only 500 Malayan tigers in the wild and only 60 in captivity.

The cubs mother "Mek" is on loan from the San Diego Zoo to breed and will spend the next year or so with her cubs before they're fully grown and moved to other locations.

"We anticipate having them here at the zoo for at least a year and a half, two years if not longer," said Myers.

Until then, you can watch them running, playing or napping in the sun.

"I think you'll see different stages (of activity) depending on the time of day. First of all, tigers sleep 16-20 hours a day so there's a lot of napping going on," said Myers.

"In fact, yesterday they were exhausted and could barely walk back to their barn and when they did, they slept all afternoon. You should also see nursing. They'll nurse to about three or four months of age and then after that watch out because they'll break loose (from their mother) and the exhibit will be just really active."

At that point Myers said, officials will open up the pool for them to play and crowds should have plenty of activity to see.

"Tigers play hard the first two years of their life, they're going to be romping and running, and with four of them, there's probably going to be something going on all the time."

New attractions drawing large crowds as families come from all over the Valley to see the first litter of tiger cubs at the zoo in more than 20 years.

"I was excited when I heard the news they were having the babies so it's exciting to see them," said visitor Lindsay Bradford. "I'm glad the zoo is getting more animals and it's expanding. It's really nice."

You can catch the cubs in action at the Malayan Tiger Exhibit Monday through Friday from 11am to noon and on weekends from 11am to 1pm, weather and tiger Mom permitting.

Officials said they expect the tigers to grow fast, eventually putting on an estimated 10 to 12 pounds a week, so if you'd like to see them while they're still small, now is your chance.

"As the cubs grow, they'll probably start dividing themselves. At about a year and a half out in the wild they start not getting along, not sharing so well with each other and also start breaking off for longer periods of time from their Mom and then they start gradually going off on their own," said Myers.

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