Get ready for Global Tiger Day 2017 on Saturday, July 29, in celebration of these incredible, endangered animals! At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, we will celebrate our nine Sumatran tigers with enrichment releases, keeper talks, training demonstrations, and conservation displays throughout the day at Tiger Trail. We would love to have you join us in support of our conservation efforts to save these magnificent animals. To get you in a tiger frame of mind, here are some fun updates about the Safari Park’s “streak” of tigers!
In a heart-melting turn of events, juvenile male Suka is living full-time with juvenile male Nelson. Suka was born on September 14, 2015, to first-time parents Joanne and Teddy. Due to health complications, Suka was hand-raised, and had never played with another tiger. Nelson is Joanne’s and Teddy’s son from their second litter. Nelson was born on January 28, 2016, along with sisters Cathy and Debbie. All three cubs born in this litter have had clean bills of health, and Joanne has done a great job raising them. However, as Nelson got older, separation from his mother and sisters was imminent. To that effect, keepers spent four months slowly introducing Suka and Nelson to one another through a graduated series of steps.
This combination of brothers has many benefits: companionship, enrichment, improved animal welfare, and the opportunity to learn natural behaviors from one another that may benefit these boys if they get future breeding recommendations. Furthermore, the Safari Park houses nine tigers, which is currently the largest population of Sumatran tigers in North America. Our tiger house is full! Therefore, housing two cats together is a valuable space saver. Although Nelson and Suka occasionally get into brotherly spats, these two males have become amiable, affectionate companions. Keepers have even observed cuddling and wrestling from the boys. We are so thrilled with the positive relationship that Nelson and Suka have cultivated with one another. Hopefully, their bond will continue to grow as they learn from each other at Tiger Trail.
Nelson’s sisters, Cathy and Debbie, are also doing great! The girls are independent of Joanne and are living together as a coalition, similar to Suka and Nelson. They are getting huge—they both weigh over 120 pounds! Both girls are still rambunctious playmates with voracious appetites. Their favorite enrichment items include camel hair and gourds, and they both enjoy saying hi through a mesh barrier (“howdying”) to Suka and Nelson or Teddy.
Joanne has separated from all three of her juvenile cubs, so she is back to being a solitary, territorial female tiger. Her new independence has provided many more opportunities for enrichment and training, something keepers are taking full advantage of! Additionally, Joanne’s reproductive system is starting to kick back into gear, and keepers are beginning to see estrus signs from her. Although Joanne does not have a breeding recommendation for this year, she enjoys her daily howdies with Langka and Teddy.
Majel and Langka have bred a few times, and we are waiting with crossed fingers in hopes of a pregnancy. All of the breedings have been very amiable; when they are not breeding, Majel and Langka enjoy howdying with each other every day. We are happy to see this new breeding pair getting along so well.
Delta celebrated her 19th birthday on May 26, 2017 ! In spite of her advancing age, Delta is still the pinnacle of health. Since Delta is the beloved matriarch of Tiger Trail, the keepers tend to spoil her with extra days in the air conditioning and bonus pieces of beef shank. Delta’s favorite companion is Teddy—the house is filled with contented greeting sounds, called “chuffs,” when they see each other.
Teddy is the rock of the tiger house. His calm demeanor and easy-going personality make him a favorite of keepers and other tigers alike. Teddy enjoys daily howdies with all of the female and juvenile tigers in the house, and is very focused during training sessions. Teddy’s new favorite enrichment items are allspice essential oil and ground ginger.
Tigers face many challenges in the wild, from habitat loss, to conflicts with humans, to poaching. Tigers are killed by poachers who illegally sell tiger body parts, mostly for folk remedies. People can help protect wild tigers by refusing to purchase items made from endangered wildlife and by avoiding products made with unsustainable palm oil, an industry that harms tiger habitats.
There are fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild, and that number continues to drop. Scientists estimate that this species could be extinct in its native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve it. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park participates in a collaborative breeding program to create assurance populations of Sumatran tigers, and provides funding for anti-poaching patrols through the Tiger Species Survival Plan’s Tiger Conservation Campaign. We hope you visit us at the Safari Park on Saturday, July 29th for Global Tiger Day to connect with our nine tigers and to learn more about saving these amazing animals!
Elise Montanino is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog, Older Gentleman Seeks Classy Lady.