- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2004

National Zoo veterinarians were able to get their first close look at the three rare Sumatran tiger cubs born this month when mom stepped outside the enclosure for some fresh air.

“They were able to get in and weigh them and even check to see what sex they were,” zoo spokeswoman Peper Long said yesterday.

All three are males who have gone from estimated birth weights of 2 pounds each to between 5 and 5.3 pounds.

“They’re growing like crazy,” said Miss Long, adding that as adults they will weigh as much as 350 pounds. “They look fine, they’re growing, they’re eating well.”

Born May 2, the cubs became the third generation of Sumatran tigers at the National Zoo. Fewer than 500 are believed to remain in the wild. About 200 are in zoos, including the cubs’ mother, Soyono, and their grandmother, Kerinci.

Veterinarians left the cubs alone until last week, when they were able to get a closer look. Because they didn’t want to ask a tigress for permission to check her cubs, the vets waited until Soyono moved outdoors. Then they closed the door to the den and grabbed the cubs.

“We have a really small window of time that we can do that,” Miss Long said, adding that the vets plan to check the cubs again in a few weeks, when it will be time for their vaccinations.

“We’ve really left them alone. It’s a real important time in the wild and in captivity for survival of those cubs. And so you want them to stay with mom — that’s the best place for them to be,” Miss Long said. Because of that, the cubs will not go on public display anytime soon.

Kerinci was found in the wild as a cub in 1984 and is now an elderly resident of the zoo. In 1993 she gave birth to Soyono. The cubs are Soyono’s second litter; in 2001 she gave birth to one cub, Berani, who is thriving at the zoo today, as is his father, Rokan, who is also the father of the new cubs.

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