You can be a hero for wildlife by visiting the Zoo or Safari Park, or by joining the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which supports our tiger project in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Having one offspring of a legendary pair is special. Having THREE is something else altogether. Mek and Paka, a breeding pair of Malayan tigers, are heroes in the fight against extinction. The latest in their long line of offspring, Cinta and Berani, are a pair of 18 month old sub-adult males that just sauntered into the Lost Forest at the San Diego Zoo. Cinta and Berani, aka “the Boys,” were born January 4th 2014 in a four-cub litter that also included two girls.
The addition of the youthful teenagers has been both joyful and a bit nerve-wracking! One particularly heart pounding moment came in the first few weeks of the boys exploring the recently renovated exhibit. At the end of May, Cinta and Berani were wading in the large pool in the lower exhibit when one decided to try to jump up the wall. Easily clearing 10 feet in a single bound, he gently fell back on his feet in the pool and wandered off to explore something else. Even though there was never a chance he could get out of the exhibit, it was still surprising to see how easily he leapt up a sheer wall. This was a true testament to how athletic and powerful these majestic creatures really are.
The exhibit was not the biggest adjustment the boys had to make. Their brother Conner, twice their age and a quarter larger in size, is an imposing and dominant male. Connor made it his mission to scent mark the entire exhibit thoroughly. This marking can last for a month. While the boys are never in the same exhibit as Connor, they know he is around and they had to adjust to seeing and smelling a much larger male. This certainly put the boys in a nervous state, leading to some funny interactions and behaviors early on. Both Berani and Cinta were on high alert the first day they and Connor were out on their exhibits for the first time. They could see Connor through the double fence and never once turned their backs on him the entire day. All the while, Connor just sat on his rock, welcoming the new kids to the block.
Once things settled down and all the tigers were getting comfortable with their surroundings, we all moved on to the next phase, exhibit swapping. Both Connor and the boys have now had time in each of the two sections of the redesigned tiger exhibit and they are noticeably calmer as a result. Connor, still a relatively young male himself, continues to show his youthful attitude and exuberance for life. On the first night of Nighttime Zoo, Connor decided to put on a show. He managed to create his own version of The Bellagio water show by ripping up a water line to his drinker. Water sprayed everywhere and one happy tiger got to play in it. The repairs were made the next day and after a short test, Cinta and Berani were swapped into the previously flooded exhibit. They decided to team up and proceeded to tear the water line out of the drinker, just after it got repaired! I guess the boys think imitation is the best form of flattery.
Connor has reclaimed his renovated digs on Tiger Trail in the Lost Forest. #caturday (Pic by Mike Wilson) A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on
Just two months in with our rambunctious family of brothers, Connor, Cinta and Berani are all adjusting. The family fun and adventure shall continue!
Aimee Goldcamp is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
Wild populations of tigers are at an all-time low, but we haven’t lost hope. Understanding tiger behavior and implementing science-based conservation efforts can save these majestic big cats. Get ready for Global Tiger Day on July 29 with these fascinating facts.
There are six subspecies of tiger living today; Amur or Siberian, Bengal or Indian, Indochinese, Malayan, Sumatran, and South China.
3 tiger subspecies (Bali, Javan, and Caspian) are extinct, and the remaining six are all highly endangered due to poaching and habitat encroachment.
The earliest tiger fossils date back about two million years.
In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of wild tigers.
At the current rate, all wild tigers could be extinct in five years.
Tigers are ambush hunters, with only about 1 in 10 hunts resulting in a meal.
Tigers have the largest canines of any big cat species, reaching 2.5 to 3 inches long.
A tiger’s tongue is covered with small, hard, hooked bumps called papillae—making it a perfect scraper to rasp off fur, feathers, and meat from bones.
They can take down prey five times their own weight.
A tiger can cover a distance of up to 33 feet in one leap.
Tigers are solitary cats, unless a female is raising cubs.
A tiger’s night vision is six times better than that of a human.
Female tigers are about 20-percent smaller and lighter than males.
A tiger’s confrontational roar contains energy in the infrasonic range, below human hearing, which helps the sound carry over long distances.
Each tiger has a unique stripe pattern, most include more than 100 stripes. Researchers observing wild tigers can identify individuals by their particular stripes.
A tiger’s stripes are skin deep.
Tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears, which could serve as “false eyes,” making the tiger look watchful to predators. These spots may also help communicate with other tigers, especially between a mom and her cubs.
Tigers can sniff out hidden messages left by other tigers through scent marks.
Tigers have partially webbed toes and their claws can reach 4 inches long.
A tiger’s front feet have an extra claw called a dewclaw, which is used specifically for climbing and gripping.
While most cats avoid it, tigers seek out water to swim and hunt.
Celebrate Global Tiger Day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tiger Trail on July 29, 2015. Festivities include keeper demonstrations, tiger enrichment, conservation displays, and much more.
Ever wonder what the day of a tiger keeper is like? Here at the Safari Park, our day starts early – at 6 a.m.! When we arrive, our first order of business is to bring all of the cats that spent the night outside on exhibit into the eight bedrooms inside the tiger house.
People often think it might be difficult to convince them to come in from their beautiful and spacious exhibits, but the truth is, they usually come running. That’s because they know that once they’re inside, it’s time for breakfast! All of the cats get between 4.5 to 6 lbs. of ground meat daily, and we typically like to divide their diet up into two to three feedings throughout the day. This allows us more opportunity to work with the cats, and it also helps to make their day a bit more interesting. We’ll often use their breakfast to work on some of their trained behaviors, or as a reward for simple desensitization, such as for blood draws, temperatures, or even just for sitting comfortably inside their transport crate. During that first meal of the day, we also take the opportunity to visually inspect them, and make sure all is well.
Once everyone is satiated, we head out to inspect the exhibits. First, we of course make sure they’re clean and safe for the cats, and then it’s time to add enrichment! Enrichment refers to anything we can incorporate into the tigers’ day to make their lives more fun, interesting, or challenging. On exhibit, that can involve anything from scattering some treats to encourage foraging behavior, to simply spraying various scents on logs, rocks, or substrates. Sometimes we’ll even use products from other animals, such as ocelot bedding, rhino dung, or hair that’s been shed by our camels. This way, their exhibits always offer them something new to explore.
When the exhibits are ready, it’s time to send some of the cats outside. As another way to keep things interesting, the cats are all rotated daily, between the three exhibits and the eight bedrooms inside. That way, no one is in the same place for two days in a row! The cats that stay inside for the day also have their bedrooms cleaned and well-stocked with enrichment, ranging from heavy-duty tiger toys, to scented paper bags or cardboard boxes. Coming up with novel ways to present these items is always very enriching for us as keepers too! As a keeper, it’s a highlight to watch Delta rolling happily on her rosemary bedding, or one of the boys tackling their favorite “weebil” toy.
Once the rest of our work is done, it’s time for record keeping. Not only do our tigers have twelve different keepers taking care of them, but veterinarians, nutritionists, researchers, and reproductive physiologists also keep tabs on the cats. For that reason, keeping detailed notes is a very important part of our job. We have record books, training and enrichment logs, and daily reports that help everyone track and monitor necessary information. Throughout the day, the keepers also do various training demonstrations with the tigers on exhibit. This allows our guests to view some of the cats’ husbandry behaviors and have a better understanding of how we interact with them, but it also provides our tigers with the best possible care.
If you’re interested in tiger training, enrichment, or even general husbandry, be sure to come and visit us on Wednesday, July 29th for Global Tiger Day. There will be keeper talks, training demonstrations, and enrichment releases for everyone to enjoy… especially the cats! We hope to see you there.
Lori Hieber is senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, Randy Rieches, has had a fruitful career breeding, protecting, and conserving wildlife here at home as well as in the wild. His latest project to help establish a tiger field conservation project led him all the way to Indonesia, where the situation for tigers is grim. I was able to ask Randy a few questions about his adventure and quickly learned that it was no walk in the park, proving once again that wildlife conservation, while incredibly important, isn’t always glamorous work.
1. What was the purpose of your trip?
I was sent to attend a meeting with Sumatran tiger and rhino conservationists working in Indonesia to find out who we could best partner with in Sumatra on our Sumatran tiger conservation work, which includes setting camera traps to monitor the tiger and rhino populations and studying behavior to better understand where to focus our efforts.
2. What kind of wildlife did you encounter on your trip?
Most of the trip was in the city, however, when we flew to Sumatra we went out to SRS and saw the Sumatran rhinos at the center, which was incredible. In the mornings as we walked on the edge of the forest we were serenaded by primates watching us from the tree tops and even had a very spooky encounter with a Sumatran tiger. As we walked down a path at 6:30 in the morning, we heard a low, guttural growl, which stopped all three of us in our tracks. We listened for a little while when we heard it again right off of the path in the forest. We started backing away very slowly all the while listening to see if it was following us. Luckily, it was not, and we moved off quite quickly. Most likely it was a female with cubs that was telling us not to come any closer, otherwise I am sure we would have had a worse encounter.
3. What kind of challenges did you face in the wild of Sumatra?
It is quite hot and humid and when it rains in Sumatra, it’s like someone turned a garden hose on you. However, I still think the leeches were the most challenging part of the trip.
4. What was the most memorable moment of the trip?
Seeing the Sumatran rhinos at SRS was incredible, but I will never forget the encounter with the tiger on our morning walk.
5. What did the trip accomplish, or what do you hope it will accomplish in the future?
We met some dedicated conservationists working in the field that we will be working with us to set camera traps to look at the number of Sumatran tigers, the prey base that they feed on, and also get a count on rhinos as well. Overall, the best accomplishment was meeting tiger people and building relationships with them which will streamline our efforts in the region.
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous blog, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need to Go Away.
There’s no doubt that domestic cats are cute and cuddly, but when it comes to their wild brothers and sisters, we strongly advise keeping your hands to yourself.
With two- to three-inch long canine teeth, Connor would rather chow down than cuddle with you.
We suggest you steer clear of Nindiri, or suffer the same fate as this poor rabbit.
Kamari might look cute, but servals are perhaps the best hunters in the cat world. They make a kill in about half of all tries, which means you probably wouldn’t survive a snuggle session.
The legendary snow leopard is rarely seen by humans. Cuddling with one? Don’t kid yourself.
One look at Teddy and you know he isn’t in the mood for some TLC.
With the ability to reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this cheetah’s gaze.
If you’re thinking “Aw, this looks just like my fluffy Felix,” think again—fishing cats can be very aggressive.
Izu barely has enough patience for his cubs, so he probably isn’t interested in your warm embrace either.
The same is true for Oshana.
Mountain lion, puma, cougar, panther—this cat is known by more names than just about any other mammal—”cuddle buddy” isn’t one of them.
Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 11 Incredibly Awesome Animal Moms.
The male jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo is getting a lot of attention for his off-the-charts cute ratings, but this little boy needs a name. Animal care staff have worked together to come up with a list of possibilities and now we want to hear what you think. Vote here.
The jaguars at the Zoo are just three of the jaguars that San Diego Zoo Global is working with. Scientist Mathias Tobler, Ph.D, has spent more than 10 years working in the Peruvian Amazon. He is using radiotelemetry, GPS collars, and camera traps to study jaguars and other keystone species’ role in the Amazonian ecosystem. Tobler is using this technology to learn about how undisturbed populations of jaguars use their habitat, their movement patterns, home-range size, density, and their foraging ecology to create a baseline to evaluate future impacts on this species caused by human development. This data will help to inform conservation decisions and recommend ways to mitigate impacts to wildlife during the planning stages of development projects near the most pristine and bio-diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.
At San Diego Zoo Global we’re working to understand jaguars, as well as pumas, peccary and tapirs, and have seen improvements in the techniques of capturing, tracking and observing animals. It has also been noticed by the Peruvian government and the research team has been asked to advise Peruvian officials on monitoring systems for animals in this area.
Studying jaguars in the Peruvian Amazon is just one example of how San Diego Zoo Global is working to #endextinction for endangered species. To find out more about this project and others please visit these resources:
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.
To prepare for the introduction, Izu and his cubs had been eyeing each other through protective barriers for the last month. Animals thrown together at random often don’t do well; keepers carefully plan introductions in stages to get the animals used to one another. Before the morning meeting on exhibit, Izu and his cubs met face to face through a “howdy door,” a door made of heavy steel mesh so they could see, smell, and hear one another. According to keeper Amy Whidden-Winter, the cubs swatted Izu’s tail, and he jumped up on a bench to get away from them. The King of the Jungle is a scaredy-cat!
On October 2, 2014, I arrived at the Park early and was lucky enough to see the lion family introduction. The keepers let Oshana and her four cubs into the outdoor exhibit first, followed immediately by Izu. He eyed the cubs and tried to sidle away from them along the edge of the exhibit. Evelyn led her siblings, with little Ernest bringing up the rear, on a stalk-and-pounce chase of Izu. Evelyn and Marion snuck up behind Izu when his back was turned and retreated as soon as he looked around. Occasionally, the bravest cubs ran up and tagged his back. Izu swatted them away like flies, and even tried spraying to mark his territory. Unfortunately for Izu, cubs don’t care about territory boundaries, and these cubs are particularly persistent and precocious.
As the morning wore on, the cubs got more and more daring. Oshana would occasionally look up from her nap when a cub hissed or Izu roared particularly loudly, but she wasn’t perturbed by the cubs’ antics. They were clearly Izu’s problem now, and it was her turn for a long-overdue catnap. According to the keepers, the four cubs have been keeping Oshana awake constantly; for a lioness used to sleeping up to 20 hours per day, that’s not desirable. Izu eventually succumbed to fatherhood: the cubs rolled on him, bit his ears, and swatted at his mane. With only an occasional roar of protest, and some hilarious facial expressions, Izu became the new babysitter. I could swear Oshana smiled in her sleep.
Visitors to the Safari Park can see Izu and Oshana on exhibit with the four cubs every morning. In the afternoon, 10-month-olds Ken and Dixie, Oshana and Izu’s first litter this year, might be on exhibit. Or Mina, the other adult female lioness in the pride, might be on exhibit with Izu to give him a well-earned respite from fatherhood. Hang in there, Izu!
Elise Newman is a Caravan Safari guide at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Who Likes the Rain: Giraffes, Rhinos, or Elephants?
The San Diego Zoo has welcomed the birth of 34 fishing cats over the years, but we have not had a successfully breeding pair of endangered fishing cats since 1999. Our current fishing cat female, Parvati, gave birth to one kitten at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. But our male, Bullet, is unproven and underrepresented, genetically speaking. It has been keeper Aimee Goldcamp’s sincere desire to see that Bullet has a chance to father some young. Bullet, on the other hand (or paw), isn’t quite as motivated.
You see, Bullet was hand raised at another facility before coming here, and, although he is larger, he is a bit intimidated by his potential mate, Parvati. I was surprised, therefore, when Aimee called me the other morning to say that Parvati was chittering, making the sound an adult female fishing cat makes when she is in estrous and wants the attentions of a male. I dashed over to record this unique sound to share with our blog readers. Yes, I’m always thinking of you!
When I arrived, Parvati was walking around the exhibit, emitting her call now and then. Rather than sounding inviting, the chitter seemed a little angry to me. Guests strolling by the exhibit thought she was telling her keeper it was time for food! But Aimee assured us all that Parvati only makes this sound when she is “in the mood,” and we all felt lucky to hear it. Unfortunately, our gibbon pair living nearby decided this was the time to make their morning territorial hoots and whoops, so it was difficult to record Parvati’s chitters without also getting some gibbon-speak!
Here’s an extremely short audio clip of Parvait’s chitter call:
Still, it was fascinating to watch Parvati pull out all the stops to entice Bullet to come out of the bedroom area and join her in the exhibit. In addition to calling and strolling by the bedroom door, Parvati rubbed her scent on rocks and logs and rolled around provocatively in the sand. Bullet did come to the door to watch her lolling beneath him, but he was unmoved to take action.
It is said that timing is everything, and that is true for cat courtship as well. I learned that the fishing cat exhibit had been closed for some remodeling, with new logs, vegetation, and fencing installed. Bullet had been surprised and a bit unnerved by the changes to his home of six years. Wouldn’t you know it? The day after the exhibit re-opened was the day Parvati felt her maternal calling!
Bullet may still come through for Parvati. After all, “romance” can happen in the off-exhibit bedroom areas as well. There are cameras mounted back there to record any happenings of interest. Who knows—we may yet hear the pitter-patter of little fishing cat paws again!
Debbie Andreen is an associate editor for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Scents for Polar Bears.
An African lion’s life is typically all about sleeping, napping and resting… but that isn’t necessarily true for the Safari Park’s Lion Camp rock stars. Ken and Dixie managed to start a secret Bite Club in their spare time. Keep reading for the official rules.
The 1st rule of Bite Club is, you don’t talk about Bite Club.
Photo by Ion Moe
The 2nd rule is, you DO NOT talk about Bite Club.
A few practice chomps or chews are permitted before the bite begins.
Photo by Bob Worthington
Stalking your bite is optional.
Photo by Angie Bell
If a cub taps out or keepers call for lunch, the bite is over.
Two cubs to a bite.
No paws, no cheap shots.
Bites will go on as long as they have to.
No enrichment or outside items.
If this is your first time at Bite Club, you have to bite.
Photo by Nathan Rupert
For more lion cub fun, watch the video below.
*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global.