BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two Malayan tiger cubs were born in BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo on July 29, 2014. The cubs are currently in the tiger den with their mother and will remain there until they are old enough to come out on the exhibit.
The two cubs are the first tiger cubs born at the Baton Rouge Zoo in almost 25 years, and the fifth and sixth Malayan cubs born in the U.S. this year.
The Malayan subspecies is the smallest of the tiger species and was first recognized in 2004. With an estimated 500 or fewer existing in the wild, they are currently identified as Endangered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary threats against the subspecies have been habitat loss and poaching. Their natural range stretches from Thailand to the Malay Peninsula, which in recent years has had an increase of deforestation and urban sprawl.
"The Baton Rouge Zoo is an active participant in tiger conservation, and the birth of these cubs is just one piece of what we do," said Frost. "The responsible breeding of Malayan tigers in accordance with the SSP provides a genetically diverse tiger population to serve as somewhat of a 'genetic insurance policy' for their wild counterparts."
The SSP is a program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that the Baton Rouge Zoo participates in, as well as all accredited zoos across the country. The goal of the SSP is to maintain a healthy population among endangered animals that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
In addition to the participation in SSP, the Baton Rouge Zoo also supports projects internationally that are dedicated to mitigating human-tiger conflict, protecting tiger habitats, researching tiger ecology and monitoring tiger populations.
"We couldn't be more excited to welcome these cubs," said Phil Frost, Zoo Director. "This is something that's been in the works since we first designed the Realm of the Tiger exhibit. During that process, we took into deep consideration the number of dens we would need, the subspecies of tigers that would be living there and their recommendations for breeding within the Species Survival Plan."
The cubs were born to the Zoo's female Malayan tiger, who came to the Zoo in 2009 from the Fort Worth Zoo, and the Zoo's male Malayan tiger, who arrived from the Little Rock Zoo in 2012. Tiger cubs typically stay in a den with their mother for eight to twelve weeks and will venture out on exhibit only after they are strong enough to navigate the space independently.
"Among big cats, first-time mothers can commonly be incompetent in caring for their young which can sometimes result in none of the cubs surviving," said Sam Winslow, Assistant Director and General Curator. "Therefore we were very pleased that two of the four cubs have survived. As with any animal birth, we're optimistic and excited, but know that the first couple of weeks are a very delicate time in the survival of the cubs. The mother is very protective of the cubs and any interference could jeopardize them."
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