Today marks a big step for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s tiger cub twosome. The approximately 3-month-old, rescued Bengal tiger cub and his 4-month-old companion, a Sumatran tiger cub that came to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, are settling in nicely to their new home at the Tull Family Tiger Trail. The two cubs were previously spending time at the Safari Park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center, but now they are living exclusively at the Tull Family Tiger Trail habitat.
“The two cubs are adjusting really well to their new home,” said Lori Hieber, senior mammal keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “They’re doing great. They act like little brothers; they play and cuddle a lot, and they squabble a bit like most brothers, but it’s all natural, healthy behavior.”
The Bengal tiger cub was brought to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Aug. 23, 2017, after being confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers during a vehicle inspection at the U.S./Mexico port of entry near San Diego. The cub remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As part of the organization’s broader efforts to lead the fight against extinction, San Diego Zoo Global is committed to reducing wildlife trafficking and the demand for illegal wildlife products.
The Sumatran tiger cub was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, but his mother was unable to care for him properly. Both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the National Zoo are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and in a collaborative effort, the animal care teams determined the best solution for the well-being of the National Zoo cub was to transfer him to the Safari Park, so he would have a playmate and grow up with another tiger. This offers both cubs opportunities for social interaction with their own species.
The cubs have bonded well, and they are growing in leaps and bounds. They are currently fully weaned from formula, and are exclusively eating a carnivore diet. Both cubs now weigh 32 pounds. As they continue to grow, the Bengal tiger will eventually outweigh the Sumatran tiger by about 200 pounds, given the difference between these two tiger subspecies.
“We feel really fortunate to have these two cubs here,” said Hieber. “It was an unusual circumstance for us to acquire them, but we think they’re in the best possible hands, and they’re going to have a wonderful life while they’re here at Tiger Trail.”
The cubs will be visible to guests daily from 9am to 12:15pm. They may also be seen occasionally on the Safari Park’s online Tiger Cam, which can be viewed at sdzsafaripark.org/tiger-cam.
Like all tigers, the critically endangered Sumatran tiger and endangered Bengal tiger subspecies face many challenges in the wild, from loss of habitat to conflicts with humans, but the biggest threat continues to be poaching. Tigers are killed by poachers who illegally sell tiger body parts, mostly for folk remedies. People can help protect wild tigers by avoiding products made with non-sustainable palm oil, an industry that harms tiger habitat; and by refusing to purchase items made from endangered wildlife.