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Suma­tran tiger cubs pass swim reli­a­bil­ity test at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

pub­lished 09 Novem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014

Two Suma­tran tiger cubs took a brisk doggy pad­dle at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on 6 Novem­ber and passed their swim reli­a­bil­ity test. The male and female cubs, named Ban­dar (in hon­our of Ban­dar Lam­pung, a south­ern port city in Suma­tra) and Sukacita (which means “joy” in Indone­sian), were born at the Zoo on 5 August.

Sumatran tigercub SmithsonianswimAll cubs born at the Great Cats exhibit must undergo the swim reli­a­bil­ity test and prove that they are ready to be on exhibit. Ban­dar and Sukacita were able to keep their heads above water, nav­i­gate to the shal­low end of the moat and climb onto dry land. Now that they have passed this crit­i­cal step, the cubs are ready to explore the yard with their mother, 4-​year-​old Damai.

Our job is to make sure that if the cubs ven­ture into the moat, they know how and where to get out
Craig Saf­foe, cura­tor of Great Cats, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Wash­ing­ton DC »

“Tigers are one of the few species of cats that enjoy tak­ing a dip in water,” Craig Saf­foe said. “The moat exists for the safety of our vis­i­tors, but it could present an obsta­cle for young cats. Our job is to make sure that if the cubs ven­ture into the moat, they know how and where to get out. These cubs rep­re­sent hope for their crit­i­cally endan­gered species’ future, so we need to take every pre­cau­tion to ensure their survival.”

Both cubs took the test under the guard of ani­mal keep­ers Dell Guglielmo and Marie Mag­nu­son, who gen­tly guided the cubs in the right direc­tion. The shal­low end of the moat is approx­i­mately 2½ feet deep. The side of the moat clos­est to the pub­lic view­ing area is about 9 feet deep and is an essen­tial safety bar­rier that effec­tively keeps the cats inside their enclosure.

Footage pro­vided by the National Zoo on the cubs’ swim test:

This is the first lit­ter of tiger cubs born at the Zoo since 2006 and the first lit­ter for Damai. The cubs were sired by the Zoo’s 12-​year-​old male tiger, Kavi. Friends of the National Zoo hosted an oppor­tu­nity to name one of the Zoo’s tiger cubs on the web­site Char­ity Buzz. The result­ing $25,000 dona­tion sup­ports ongo­ing research and edu­ca­tion out­reach at the Great Cats exhibit.

Start­ing Mon­day 18 Novem­ber, keep­ers will decide on a day-​to-​day basis whether Sukacita and Ban­dar will spend time in the yard and for how long they will be out. This deci­sion will be based on weather and how the cubs adjust to being outdoors.

From under water the first time swim of the male cub looks like this:

The Suma­tran tiger is a sub­species belong­ing to the tiger species (Pan­thera tigris) which is listed as Endan­gered accord­ing the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species. It is esti­mated that between 400 and 500 exist in the wild. There are 65 Suma­tran tigers liv­ing in accred­ited zoos in North Amer­ica in addi­tion to these recently born cubs.

For decades, the Zoo’s Smith­son­ian Con­ser­va­tion Biol­ogy Insti­tute sci­en­tists have been recog­nised as global lead­ers for their work in tiger-​range coun­tries in Asia help­ing to pro­tect tigers in the wild. In just the past two years they have co-​hosted train­ing courses for teams of front­line con­ser­va­tion prac­ti­tion­ers. The course par­tic­i­pants spent time both in the class­room and in the field, learn­ing to use state-​of-​the art law-​enforcement mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems and about tiger biol­ogy, law-​enforcement, ille­gal trade and how to work with local communities.

More pic­tures of the swim test here.

(Source: Smith­son­ian News­desk news release, 06.11.2013)

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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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