- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

Berani means "brave" and "courageous" in Sumatra, and a 7-month-old tiger was true to his name yesterday as he made his outdoor debut at the National Zoological Park.
It was playtime for Berani, a rare Sumatran tiger born on Sept. 18. The cub pretended to stalk his mother, Soyono, 8, and would leap on her, uninhibited by the crowd of news reporters and photographers.
"She has been teaching him to hunt. She's teaching him to take down," as he would take down water buffalo and other beasts in the wild, said zoo tiger keeper Marie Magnuson.
Berani's nose led him to a bag of hay and aromatic rosemary herb that Miss Magnuson had hidden in bushes on the man-made island where the seven zoo tigers prowl every day. Miss Magnuson had brought the herb from her garden because she knew its scent would attract Berani.
He bit the sack. Shook it. Dragged it around the island, and up to the two upper levels. Then he would give up momentarily and stalk his mother, who sometimes would engage in mild, playful combat.
"She's a very good mother. She's doing very good," Miss Magnuson said, explaining that Soyono has a quiet temperament, unlike her own mother, Kerinsi, 16, the zoo's oldest tiger.
Kerinsi, who gave birth to three cubs in 1999, often gave warning "guttural growlings," Miss Magnuson said, while Soyono almost never makes a sound.
Sumatran tigers, the smallest among eight subspecies populating Indonesia and South Pacific islands, are an endangered breed mainly because of the growing human population that is cutting away the forests and planting the land with crops and gardens.
Between 200 and 500 are still alive and in the wild, said senior curator John Seidensticker. About 250 live in 85 zoos in Indonesia, North America, Europe and Australia.
Those zookeepers are informed about tiger family lines to prevent inbreeding, which would further diminish Sumatran tigers, Mr. Seidensticker said.
"They need all the help they can get" for the breed to survive, he said.
Berani's father, Rokan, for instance, was born at the San Antonio Zoological Garden and Aquarium in 1990 and was transferred to the National Zoo for breeding with Soyono. Berani's older half-brother, Erik, soon will be transferred to a zoo in Tampa, Fla., to sire some new tigers.
"[Rokan] was a laid-back cat," Mr. Seidensticker said, similar to Soyono.
Berani, about 5 pounds at birth, now weighs 76 pounds. He will be up to 300 pounds when full grown in about two years, Miss Magnuson said.
Berani began eating meat when he was 2 months old. Six days a week, Soyono sometimes leaves some of her chopped horse meat, mixed with vitamins and minerals, so Berani gets a share. Together, they consume about 10 pounds.
"She makes sure he gets to eat," Miss Magnuson said.
On Sundays, the tigers get "horsetail," which is like the end of a horse's backbone. Visitors will enjoy watching Berani grab a "horsetail" and carry it off, she said.
This was the second and delayed debut for Berani. His first debut was Dec. 27 when he weighed 24 pounds. That was indoors, and human visitors oohed and aahed through glass windows.
The outdoor debut was postponed from March because the weather did not cooperate. Mr. Seidensticker said the tigers in the wild live in temperatures above 50 degrees, but that day in March was freezing.
"I thought we would have a blizzard today," Mr. Seidensticker joked.
Now that the weather is right, Berani can be seen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily in the outdoors. School buses yesterday unloaded dozens of children who would be among the first spectators for Berani's second debut.

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