It’s all change in the Flamingo Land tiger enclosure this week!
Ever since our three tiger cubs were born in March, they and their mum Surya have had access to half of the enclosure, while Bawa, the father, has had the other half all to himself. This is because in the wild, tigers are solitary and so the female would raise her cubs alone.
Male tigers have even been known to kill cubs, so we decided not to take any chances and Bawa has never been allowed into the same part of the enclosure as the cubs. Until now, Bawa has had the side of the enclosure which contains the pond and the raised platforms, both of which could have been hazardous to small cubs.
However, the cubs are six months old now and already at least half the size of their mother, so we wanted to give them the chance to explore somewhere new and have some new things to play with. Consequently, we have switched everyone around so that Surya and the cubs are now in the side that was Bawa’s and Bawa is where Surya and the cubs were.
All of the tigers were let out into their new areas of the enclosure at lunchtime on Wednesday. Surya and Bawa adjusted very quickly to the change in living arrangements, as you’d expect because until the cubs came, they both had access to the whole enclosure. Bawa wandered about sniffing everything and Surya just had a quick check that everything was still where she remembered and then got on with eating her lunch! The cubs were fascinated by their new surroundings and spent lots of time exploring. No one went for a swim but some paws were dipped into the pond and hastily taken out again!
The Sumatran tiger is one of the most endangered subspecies of tiger, with recent estimates suggesting only 400-600 individuals remain in the wild. They are threatened by the illegal trade in tiger parts, as well as the loss of their native habitat in Indonesia, where rainforests are being cut down to create oil palm plantations at a rate of 3-6% every year.
In an attempt to halt this decline, Sumatran tigers have been made part of an international breeding programme, with over 250 individuals in zoos worldwide (118 in the EU alone). Every animal move must be coordinated by a studbook keeper, with pairings carefully selected to maximise genetic diversity. Bawa came to Flamingo Land from the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, and Surya from Paignton Zoo in Devon.