Watch: Rare newborn Sumatran tiger takes first steps at Memphis Zoo

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A charming new video showcases a newborn Sumatran tiger, now a rare species in the world, taking its initial steps in life. Born on May 5 at the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee, the unnamed cub shares its birthdate with one sibling. The mother of these cubs, Dari, is almost nine years-old, and their father, Gusti, is close to six.

In a CCTV recording from inside Dari’s enclosure, the newborn cub is seen striving to take its first steps, only to end up flopping onto its side.

As a highly endangered subspecies, the Sumatran tiger is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It is the smallest subspecies of tiger, and it’s estimated that there are less than 500 of these beautiful animals remaining in the wild, according to Project Ark. These newborn cubs are particularly noteworthy, being the first born at the Memphis Zoo in the past 25 years.

Their birth holds significance, symbolizing a glimmer of hope for the future of Sumatran tigers. These cubs were born as part of a species survival plan, a program with the goal of establishing a genetically diverse population of Sumatran tigers in captivity, to ensure the survival of this critically endangered species.

YouTube video

“As the last of the island tigers, preserving Sumatran tigers is critically important,” says Dan Dembiec, a curator at the zoo, in a statement.

“Sumatran tigers are managed collaboratively in breeding programs by accredited zoos globally. So, the birth of tiger cubs here at the Memphis Zoo is a milestone with a worldwide impact.”

“So far, Dari has proven to be a fantastic mother, calmly grooming and nursing the cubs,” Dembiec adds, according to SWNS.

“In the meantime, zookeepers continue building relationships with her by training her to be comfortable shifting away from the cubs temporarily so we can eventually examine them and ensure they are healthy on Dari’s terms.”

“We will document milestones and their development, such as when their eyes open when they are strong enough to leave the nest box, and when they start sampling diet,” says veterinarian Dr. Felicia Knightley.

Unnamed tiger cub at Memphis Zoo
The unnamed tiger cub at Memphis Zoo. (Credit: SWNS)

The birth of the cubs did not come without effort. The cubs’ parents had to be acclimated to their environment at the zoo and were introduced a year before breeding.

“We had to acclimate them to our facility, which can take time and a lot of effort in writing protocols and getting to know the tigers,” Dembiec says.

“After that, we had to introduce them to each other, which can have an inherent risk, as you never know how tigers will react to each other. When Dari went into labor on the evening of May 5th, all the zookeepers were anxiously awaiting the news. They all breathed a sigh of relief when it became readily apparent that the cubs were alive and that Dari’s maternal instincts were appropriate.”

7 in 10 Americans have no idea which animals are on the verge of extinction

As the team at the Memphis Zoo works to make a great new home for these tiger cubs, a recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans are not “very informed” on which species are more likely to vanish or survive from the world today. The vast majority admit they don’t know the Western Lowland Gorilla, among several other animals, may be close to disappearing forever (83%).

Similarly, eight in 10 are not aware that Sumatran Rhino populations are dwindling, while 81 percent have no idea sea turtles are an endangered species. Nearly a third of adults say the issue of animal extinction is not “on their radar” (30%) since 37 percent don’t know how they could help to make a difference.

South West News Service writer Leo Black contributed to this report.

YouTube video