Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir

Photo: Taronga Zoo

When three Sumatran tiger cubs were born at Taronga Zoo on a cold August morning last year, keepers and veterinarians breathed a sigh of relief.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered, with as few as 400 estimated to be living in the wild. Only seven per cent of their original habitat remains, with palm oil plantations the major threat to the forests they live in. On top of that, tiger body parts continue to be used in traditional medicines, and tiger pelts fetch high prices on the black market. In fact, so great is the demand for tiger pelts that in 2009 a female tiger was poisoned, killed and skinned while in an exhibit at Rimbo Zoo in Indonesia (a suspect has since been arrested).

For these reasons, Taronga’s three cubs represent a staggering one per cent of the existing Sumatran Tiger population. Over the years the Zoo has made a significant contribution to Sumatran Tiger conservation, with the breeding program yielding 30 tigers since 1979. But the lead up to this birth wasn’t straightforward.

Father Satu was imported from Stuttgart Germany at the age of 18 months as part of the international zoo breeding program for Sumatran Tigers. Too young to breed, he spent around 18 months acclimatising at Western Plains Zoo before arriving at Taronga Zoo in January 2008.

When he did arrive he was kept in his own enclosure, as tigers are generally solitary animals. However, he had auditory and olfactory contact with Jumilah and was allowed into her enclosure when she was in oestrus. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir