The Woodland Park Zoo's two rare Sumatran tiger cubs were too busy pouncing on plants, play-wrestling with each other and generally behaving like kittens yesterday to notice the...
The Woodland Park Zoo’s two rare Sumatran tiger cubs were too busy pouncing on plants, play-wrestling with each other and generally behaving like kittens yesterday to notice the crowds that filed in to watch them frolic in their temporary exhibit space.
Dozens of zoo attendees of all ages waited in sometimes-lengthy lines to catch a glimpse of the cubs for the first time since they were born here in September.
Besides being cute, the cubs represent a significant addition to the world’s tiger population, said zookeeper Amy Brandt. All five subspecies of tigers are endangered, but Sumatran tigers are the most rare, with only 400 believed to be left in the wild.
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The two male cubs, Langka and Manis, have distinct personalities, Brandt said. Langka, whose name means “rare” in Indonesian, is the more energetic of the two, she said. He’s exuberant and inquisitive, just like his mother, JoJo, she said. Manis, whose name means “sweet” in Indonesian, is much more laid-back than his brother, even timid at times, and takes after his father, Brandt said.
“They are just adorable,” she said, “and they’re just going to get cuter and cuter.”
Official attendance estimates weren’t available yesterday afternoon, but a combination of curiosity about the new cubs and the sunny, dry weather seemed to draw crowds.
Zoo attendee Sean Owen said he’d planned his visit solely to see the new tiger cubs and wasn’t disappointed. He marveled at the chance to get so close to such rare animals, and noticed similarities between the cubs’ movements and those of his pet cat.
“It’s incredible to be standing here and see such beautiful creatures,” he said.
The cubs also impressed friends Clarissa Stevens and Margo Press, both 11.
“I’ve never seen a baby tiger before, except on TV,” Stevens said. “It’s cool to see how small they are.”
The cubs were kept in seclusion until now to make it easier for them to bond with their mother. They will remain in their heated indoor exhibit with the mother at least until spring, when the weather warms enough for them to move to an outdoor space, Brandt said. Now, the outdoor area is too chilly, and given the cubs’ penchant for tumbling, they could hurt themselves, she said.
“It’s something of an old wives’ tale that cats always land on their feet,” Brandt said with a laugh. The indoor exhibit doesn’t have any steep ledges the cubs could fall from, but hay has been spread around on the floor to give it extra cushioning, just in case, she said.
The two male cubs were the second litter born to JoJo and father Rakata. Breeding tigers can be a challenge because of the animals’ solitary, territorial natures, Brandt said, and because it’s difficult to predict how two tigers will react to each other. Zookeepers have to get to know the personalities of the tigers and make an educated guess about which tigers will get along, much less be able to breed, she said.
It took zookeepers years to get JoJo and Rakata accustomed to each other, she said.
Now, Rakata is kept in an adjacent den, where he can see and sniff his family through a mesh door. But, as is typical with tiger fathers, he’s rather indifferent toward his cubs, Brandt said.
Jessica Blanchard: 206-464-3896 or firstname.lastname@example.org