Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo have shared the first footage of an adorable Christmas arrival - a Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger cub, born at 02:19 on Sunday 12 December.
Remarkable footage captured by the Zoo’s hidden ‘cubcam’ shows ten-year-old mum Gaysha cleaning and feeding the rare newborn just hours after the birth - before the determined youngster takes its first wobbly steps on the soft straw of their cosy behind-the-scenes den.
ZSL London Zoo tiger keeper Lucy Reed said: “We knew Gaysha was nearing full-term as we’d seen her belly grow rapidly over the previous few weeks, so we made her a special cubbing den in anticipation, filling it with soft straw for added comfort – it was there she chose to give birth.”
While Gaysha has periodically ventured outdoors alone to stretch her legs in the days since, the two-week-old cub will most likely remain tucked away in the family’s warm cubbing den until its first vaccinations - when vets and zookeepers will also be able to determine the cub’s sex. One of an original litter of three, the cub’s two siblings sadly did not survive labour.
Lucy added: “The chunky little cub is doing really well in mum’s excellent care, and definitely takes after dad Asim in terms of size and strength. We’ve seen some key milestones already, with the little one taking its first steps almost immediately and - more recently - opening its eyes, which are always closed for the first few days after birth.
“At the moment, while we’re still keeping a close eye via cubcam, we’re also taking care not to disturb the family so that they can bond together - we can’t wait to get to know the little one as it grows bigger and begins to explore more of its surroundings.”
Born almost a year to the day since mum Gaysha’s arrival at London Zoo from Denmark (16 December 2020) the new boy or girl is being celebrated as a boost to the collaborative global breeding programme for Sumatran tigers, which sees zoos around the world work together to look after a healthy back-up population of the Critically Endangered species.
Sumatran tigers are the rarest and smallest subspecies of tiger in the world, with the latest figures suggesting that only 300 remain in the wild.
The charity zoo is now asking its Members, Fellow and Patrons to exclusively offer up suggestions for the cub’s name over the coming days, which will then be shortlisted by zookeepers before being voted on by the keen group of ZSL supporters.
While mum Gaysha is still choosing to spend most of her time snuggled up inside with her baby, visitors to ZSL London Zoo can still see ten-year-old dad Asim hanging out in Tiger Territory - and can also watch exclusive cubcam footage in the exhibit.