Four Sumatran tiger cubs have been born at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
The cubs are the first of their kind born at the zoo, and they're some of the rarest tigers in the world.
The cubs — one male and three females — will be on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
They were born July 9 and are the first for mother, Suriya, and father, Raguno. The cubs now weigh about 30 pounds each.
Officials waited three months to announce the birth of the tiger cubs because they didn't want to tell the public until the animals were outside on display, said Alan Varsik, assistant zoo director.
“People would want to come here to see them, and we wouldn't want to
Keepers let the cubs briefly explore their outdoor habitat earlier this week, but Tuesday was their first full day outside as a family.
The outdoor area has plenty of rocks and drop-offs, so supervisors wanted to be sure the cubs were agile and coordinated enough to be safe, said Jon
The cubs will stay with their mother until they mature at about 2 years old. From there, the tigers may stay in Oklahoma or be assigned to other zoos, Reding said.
The mating efforts lasted more than three years, Reding said. Keepers had to wait for just the right timing to partner the normally solitary animals.
“We've been very successful with other species,” Reding said. “But this one, we've been trying the hardest with. This is probably one of the most anticipated births that we've had.”
Only 71 Sumatran tigers live in captivity in North American zoos, and about 230 live in the wild, according to the Tiger Species Survival Plan, a nationwide breeding strategy designed to keep the captive tiger population healthy and genetically diverse.
The birth of the four Oklahoma City cubs is exciting, said Tara Harris, coordinator of the Tiger Species Survival Plan.
A thriving tiger population in captivity is sort of a genetic insurance policy for tigers in the wild, Harris said.
“Tiger populations in the wild are very endangered, and the threat of extinction is real,” Harris said.
“We know that three subspecies of tigers have already gone extinct in the last hundred years. With this critically endangered population of Sumatran tigers, we want to make sure we can prevent their extinction with this backup population.”
Harris said she would like to see the captive Sumatran tiger population grow to 150.
AT A GLANCE
by the numbers
Sumatran tigers are one of six living tiger subspecies. They live mostly on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and are considered critically endangered.
71: number of Sumatran tigers in captivity in North America, including the four tiger cubs born this summer at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
230: estimate of the wild Sumatran tiger population.
10 to 15: average life span in years of a tiger in the wild.
3.5: average length in inches of a tiger's retractable claws.
250: weight in pounds of an average adult male, the lightest of the tiger subspecies.
20: average territory size in square miles per adult tiger.