Two captive tiger cubs—a Sumatran tiger, from the National Zoological Park (NZP) and the other, presumably a Bengal tiger are being cared for at the San Diego Zoo. The cubs were born within a week of each other in July, and will grow up together the San Diego Zoo.
Craig Saffoe, curator of Great Cats at NZP, described the matching of the two young cubs as similar to seeing a shooting star.
“It is a one-in-a-million shot that it would have worked out this way,” Saffoe said. He expects the two cubs to learn to “rough and tumble” together and learn how to approach other tigers.
On Monday, the 2-month-old, roughly-15-pound tiger cub left the NZP in Washington for San Diego.
“It was really a roller coaster,” Saffoe said of the mother-cub relationship over the last few months.
Zookeepers at NZP are not exactly sure what caused Damai to shun her cub. Damai successfully raised two other cubs in 2013. Experts think it could possibly be mastitis or a lack of milk.
Saffoe said, at times, Damai would groom her cub and play as normal. But when he moved to her belly, she would “vocalize aggressively.” At times, she would roll over or push him away with her hind feet. This behavior gradually became more frequent.
The NZP’s tiger cub never went on display to visitors. And after an incident in early September when Damai sat on a bench and growled when the cub came near, zookeepers decided to separate the two. “That’s not how a mom should treat her offspring,” said Saffoe.
Great cat experts and zookeepers at NZP were in touch with colleagues at the San Diego Zoo on other feline-related matters and mentioned the troubles with their tiger cub. They found out that the San Diego Zoo recently received a tiger cub that was confiscated in August at the Mexican border.
An 18-year-old man had the tiger cub on the front passenger-side floor of a 2017 Chevy Camaro when authorities stopped him. He told officials he planned to keep it as a pet. The San Diego cub was brought to the zoo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the cub was confiscated at the California-Mexico border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
Zookeepers hope putting the two tiger cubs together will benefit both, as they will grow up and learn how to be tigers together rather than being raised more by humans. Because of legal restrictions, NZP said, the San Diego cub is not allowed to leave California.
“It’s incredible timing,” Saffoe said.
“They’ll grow up as siblings and learn to be tigers together.” Once tigers reach about 1 to 1½ years old they become solitary animals.
The California teenager who says he bought a Bengal tiger cub on the streets of Tijuana for $300 was arrested when he tried to bring it into the United States.
He was released on a $10,000 bond and ordered to appear in federal court in San Diego. If convicted, Valencia could face up to 20 years in prison.