WINSTON — Two tiger cubs were trying to take a nap Monday morning. Instead, they had to get weighed and checked before they were able to close their eyes.
Robert Peters, cheetah carnivore lead, would pick the tigers up and place them on the scale while Anna Maria Jardini, part of the carnivore team, would jot down the weights. The cubs were no bigger than a house cat, but will grow to be around 325 pounds.
“You can see those nice big milk bellies,” Peters said. “They have definitely been drinking plenty of milk.”
The cubs, both female, were born on Oct. 29 to mom Kemala as part of the Species Survival Plan. Wildlife Safari welcomed another set of tiger cubs in July 2021. Both sets of cubs share the same father.
“They are super chill,” Peters said. “Our cubs last year were really cool but they were very noisy. These ladies are really quiet, really sweet.”
The cubs do not have names yet.
When they were born their eyes were bright blue, but as they get older the color will change.
Mom and dad are on display in the drive-thru at Wildlife Safari, but it will be a little longer before the cubs will be out in public.
“The boards (about 4 inches tall) are kind of like stepping stones,” Peters said. “Once they’re ready and able to get over those, we’ll allow them to venture further.”
The male tiger will be leaving in December to continue breeding at a different zoo, leaving Wildlife Safari with five females.
“We’ve got three pens out there,” General Curator Dan Brands said. “Tigers are solitary so three is enough to fill each one of those, but when they’re young like this they’ll be with their mom for at least a year — up to two years— before they start showing signs that they need to be solitary.”
Although there were no males, Brands said Wildlife Safari is willing to be part of more breeding in the future and be part of conservation work.
“There’s less than 300 left in the wild,” Peters said. “So any success you have in breeding is a good thing.”
The Species Survival Plan focuses on managing the breeding and care of various threatened or endangered species. The animals will be moved around to keep the genetic pool as viable and healthy as possible.
Wildlife Safari has only Sumatran tigers, which are the smallest of the tiger subspecies. Sumatran tigers have the most stripes and the darkest orange coat of any tiger species. “I think they’re the coolest looking, but I’m biased,” Peters said.
The cubs opened their eyes a week ago and were still teary-eyed on Monday. Closing their eyes off and on during the weigh-in.
“They’re very sleepy,” Peters said. “It’s good that when we’re in here doing this, they’re comfortable enough to fall asleep. Because it can be a stressful thing coming in weighing, but they definitely reflect a lot of how mom is.”