- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

There was nearly an hour wait yesterday for the 500 people lined up to see the Sumatran tiger cub, Berani, on the first day of his public exhibition at the National Zoo.
"It's always exciting to see the new baby animals, and it's definitely worth the wait," said Tom Otwell of Silver Spring, who joined his wife in celebrating her birthday by coming to the zoo.
Bronzed-brown, with dark-black stripes, Berani, whose name in Bahasa Indonesian means "brave," was born on Sept. 18. His mother, Soyono, an 8-year-old Sumatran tiger, is very protective of her cub. Rokan, 11, is the father.
Tiger mothers do not allow adult males near their cubs, so Berani and Soyono are currently housed separately from Rokan.
Berani weighs about 24 pounds. He will be on display daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside the Great Cats exhibit until he gets larger. Eventually, he will grow to be about 300 pounds.
"He is very playful and likes to jump around on his mother," said Mindy Babitz, Berani's keeper.
This was the best part for John Carrier, 5, who joined 20 of his classmates from Springfield Academy on a visit to the zoo.
"The mommy tiger playing on top of the baby tiger was so cute and so much fun. I really liked that a lot," he said.
Tiffany Montgomery, a teacher at the school, said the trip was planned before they knew about Berani's debut, so that was an added bonus, despite the 45-minute wait.
There are estimated to be fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers in the wild, and an additional 70 are in captivity. Berani likely will stay at the National Zoo for several years before being transferred to another zoo to mate, Miss Babitz said. In the meantime, he will spend most of his time playing inside until the weather gets warmer. He is still nursing, but every so often Soyono will share some of her food with him, Miss Babitz said.
The temperature outside was barely 40 degrees yesterday, but most people did not seem to mind the wait, which zoo officials said was not unusual for an animal debut.
"Baby animals have that appeal, so it is not that surprising," said Carrie Plate, manager of guest services, who also braved the cold weather to keep the line moving.
For many, coming to see Berani was a family affair something fun for everyone to do while the children were on Christmas holidays, and to share with relatives visiting from out of state.
Berani spent much of the morning running around inside, oblivious to all the attention he was getting. He did rest for a bit, which some found disappointing, after the long wait.
"It would have been cooler if he had been awake more, but it was still neat," said Catherine Kuntz, 11, of Austin, Texas, who was in the area visiting her uncle.
Children particularly enjoyed seeing Berani during the holiday and noted they did not typically enjoy Thursdays the way they did yesterday.
"I would be getting ready to go to lunch since we would be getting out of social studies and that's very boring," said Frankie Cox, 10, from Springfield, who was visiting the zoo with her grandparents and an aunt from Texas. "This is a fun, and he is so cute."
Many people visiting the zoo yesterday were coming out for the first time since the arrival of some of the other new additions to the park earlier this year. The National Zoo also is home to Kandula, an Asian elephant calf, born in November; a yet-to-be-named western lowland gorilla born in October; and Jana, a Masai giraffe born in January. The zoo also welcomed giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in January.
"What are the chances of seeing a baby elephant?" asked Pat Baczynsky of Olney, who disagreed with her friend, Theresa Flanagan, of Durkirk, Md., about which animal was cuter after seeing both.
"I thought [Berani] was just incredible, so beautiful with his mother," said Mrs. Flanagan. "He is just too cute."

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