The three Malayan tiger cubs at the San Diego Zoo are now six months old and quite the handful (see previous blog, A Tiger Cub’s Day). Menderu (which is Malayan for “roar”) is a male and the largest, weighing 80 pounds (36 kilograms). His two sisters aren’t much smaller; Jin (which means “spirit”) weighs 72 pounds (33 kilograms), while Seri (meaning “brightness”) is the smallest at 70 pounds (32 kilograms). But just because Menderu is the biggest doesn’t mean that he is in charge of his sisters! They are quite capable of holding their own against him.
The cubs and their mother, Mek, are usually on exhibit in Tiger River from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, unless we have a medical reason for holding them off. They are typical kids who alternate between playing, annoying mom, and napping. The cubs also spend quite a bit of time by our gate yelling at us to feed them! Mek is no longer nursing them, which is typical for this age. They are currently getting 2.8 pounds (1,300 grams) of carnivore meat daily, plus bones twice a week and a rabbit once a week. We increase their meat amount as they grow. We have also started a training program with them that allows us to feed them calmly and separately while looking at various body parts to make sure that they are healthy.
We were able to handle the cubs until they were three and a half months old. However, once they realized that they were carnivores and had a say in if we handled them, we were forced to stop. They can be very cranky cubs at times!
We spend a fair amount of time a day finding things for the cubs to play with in their bedrooms. They enjoy anything they can tear up; phone books, boxes, and heads of lettuce seem to be fun to destroy. Whole fruits and vegetables make good balls, too. Watching them destroy things is quite amusing; however, I dread cleaning it up the next day! Good thing that they are so adorable.
So, stop by and check out our “kids.” They are growing fast and will be hard to distinguish from their mom in another six months.
Rochelle Willison is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
Watch video of the cubs enjoying their Halloween treats: