Tiger cubs’ first snow experience

The three tiger cubs born in March 2014; (l-r) Kuasa, Mentari and Bulan.
The three tiger cubs born in March 2014; (l-r) Kuasa, Mentari and Bulan.

Their keepers may have been freezing but Flamingo Land’s Sumatran tiger cubs have been enjoying themselves in the cold weather recently!

Kuasa, Bulan and Mentari were born in March last year and didn’t really venture outside until May, so snow is definitely a novelty for them.

Sumatran tigers would naturally be found in tropical areas that certainly wouldn’t get snow in winter. However, their thick fur does allow them to cope well with cold weather, so the cubs can be seen out and about even at this time of year. Their mother, Surya, has often been outside as well, keeping an eye on the cubs, but dad Bawa is a bit less keen on the cold and does spend more time in his nice warm den during the winter months!

All of our tiger cubs have grown rapidly and are fast approaching the time when they would become independent in the wild. Tigers are solitary animals and so as soon as the young are able to take care of themselves, they disperse and find their own territory. Our three cubs can be seen play-fighting, stalking and pouncing on one another, all of which are crucial behaviours that allow them to practise their hunting skills.

Kuasa, our male cub, is easy to tell apart from his sisters as he is larger than they are – male tigers are generally bigger than females. It’s also possible to tell our tigers apart by variations in their markings, so if they come close to the windows, try spotting differences!

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.

In a bid 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.