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First tiger cub makes history at Auckland Zoo

Auckland City Council
Media release

17 June 2008

First tiger cub makes history at Auckland Zoo

After 10 years of planning and preparation, Auckland Zoo has welcomed the arrival of a critically endangered Sumatran tiger cub.

Keepers arrived at work last Thursday (12 June) to the ‘squeaking’ of what is thought to be one tiger cub, born in the early hours of the morning. In a case of ‘less is more’, mum Molek has been left to bond with her cub in her den. Keepers are yet to get a close look to confirm details, but report that all seems to be going well so far.

The ‘squeaking’ sound of the cub has increased over the days, showing that it has gained strength, and Molek has been seen cleaning her cub. Molek has also started eating again - something she stopped a few days before birth and immediately after (as she would in the wild), and has been sticking close to her cub and bonding well.

“As an eight-year-old, Molek has come to motherhood quite late in life, so for her to have this cub is fabulous. By having what we think is only the one cub, she’s been given a gentle introduction to motherhood, and the chance to really focus and bond with her cub and find her paws - so to speak,” says Auckland Zoo carnivore team leader, Andrew Coers.

“The birth is a highlight of the conservation efforts of the zoo to help this critically endangered tiger. It’s great to finally have a Sumatran tiger cub at Auckland Zoo. The cub is particularly genetically valuable as two-year-old dad Oz’s bloodline is not represented in Australasian or European zoos.

“As excited as we are, there are still many risks involved for the survival of cub. By providing an unobtrusive environment for mum and cub, we make things as natural and stress-free as possible for them both,” says Mr Coers.

Mum Molek will determine when the cub goes on display in Visa Tiger Territory. This could possibly be up to six to eight weeks away. However, in the coming weeks people will be able to see both mum and cub via a cubcam (that links to their inside den) at the tiger exhibit. This footage will also be on the website.

“We know people from all over the world have been following this journey and, on behalf of everyone at Auckland Zoo, thank them for their kind wishes and support. We have a dedicated section on our website where we will keep people updated with progress on the cub. Within the next month we will also be running a naming competition, with proceeds going to conservation,” says Mr Coers.


Sumatran tiger - Panthera tigris sumatrae
Home: the island of Sumatra, Indonesia
Conservation status: critically endangered. Worldwide, there are fewer than 160 Sumatran tigers in captive (zoo) facilities, 24 of whom are in Australasia, and less than 400 in the wild

Weight: at birth, a cub weighs between 500-800 grams. Auckland Zoo’s male tiger Oz weighs 135kgs

Mating: at Auckland Zoo, Oz and Molek were put together when she was on heat, usually once a month. Mating lasted over a period of three to five days, and took place between 16-30 times a day over this period

Gestation: approximately 100-110 days

Additional information

Breeding of Sumatran tigers at Auckland Zoo was a decision decided on in collaboration with regional partners, the Australasian Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA) and European Association of Zoos & Aquaria (EAZA). Potential offspring will go to other zoos in these regions. Worldwide, there are fewer than 160 Sumatran tigers in captive (zoo) facilities, 24 of whom are in Australasia, and less than 400 in the wild.

Captive breeding for any endangered species is an insurance policy, not a solution. To contribute to solving the underlying problems, zoos are increasingly working together, and with other organisations, to support conservation projects in the wild. Through its Conservation Fund, Auckland Zoo has joined with already supporting ARAZPA and EAZA partners, to financially assist the 21st Century Tiger project's Kerinci Seblat National Park.

World Heritage Site Kerinci Seblat’s 14,000km is one of the most important conservation areas in South-east Asia, and has tiger protection and conservation units working hard to halt the poaching and trafficking of tigers.

Auckland Zoo is an enterprise of Auckland City Council. It is home to the largest collection of native and exotic wildlife species in New Zealand (over 1300 animals and 179 species) and attracts over half a million visitors annually. It is becoming increasingly well known nationally and internationally through the award-winning television programme, 'The Zoo'. At the heart of all Auckland Zoo's work and activities is its mission: "to focus the Zoo’s resources to benefit conservation and provide exciting visitor experiences which inspire and empower people to take positive action for wildlife and the environment". Auckland Zoo is a member of both the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA) and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).


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