Tacoma got a new resident last week and the arrival brought out the paparazzi. After a three-hour flight from Tulsa on a private jet that was donated by an animal lover in Oklahoma, 6-week-old Malayan tiger cub Berani found his new home and friend, 7-week-old Sumatran cub Dumai, at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Both tigers are extremely rare and their sub-species are endangered. It is unusual to rear different sub-species together. But it seemed the best option in hopes of saving the tigers from extinction. “It is absolutely important to save each and every one of these animals,” said Dr. Karen Goodrowe Beck, general curator at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Berani means “brave” in Malay. The name was given to the tiger by the Tulsa Zoo staff. Dumai was named by PDZA staff after a Sumatran city when members of the public voted on six options.
Minutes after Berani landed at the Narrows Airport on Oct. 10, he met Dumai for the first time in an enclosure as photographers and video camera operators captured the moment from behind glass. A television crew from Tulsa flew with the furry feline to document the adventure. Both tigers were less than impressed with each other and seemed to prefer being petted by their zoo handlers than play with each other. Belly rubs largely won out over playful fighting between the house cat-sized felines. Had the 12-pound tigers not liked each other, they would have hissed and pounced on each other. “But none of that happened,” Goodrowe Beck said. “They are getting along really well.” Both will stay at PDZA for two to three years before they find their way to breeding programs in hopes to save the species from extinction. They will be about 300 pounds by then.
Species Survival Plan coordinators and zoological and veterinary staff at both zoos opted to put the two male cubs together for hand-rearing, so they could become socialized with and learn tiger behaviors from one another. Each of them was the only cub in a litter, and zoo officials separated them from their mothers when it was clear that intervention was necessary for the health of the cubs. As few as 300 Sumatran tigers remain in their native habitat on the Indonesian island. There are 74 Sumatran tigers in Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited zoos in North America; a total of 375 are in five regionally managed programs around the world as part of the Global Species Management Plan. Fewer than 500 are believed to live in the wild. “I think it speaks very highly of our expertise,” Goodrowe Beck said. “There has been a lot of trust put into us.”
To learn more about the tigers, the Tiger Conservation Campaign and what people can do to help them, go to http://www.pdza.org.