JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Santa let the cat out of the bag a little early at the Jacksonville Zoo -- well, two cats to be precise.
Zookeepers at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens unwrapped the purrfect gift just in time for the holiday season with the healthy birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs.
The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. on Nov. 20, giving the zoo much to be grateful for just in time for Thanksgiving.
The zoo also welcomed two new giraffe babies this month, so the zoo nursery is getting pretty full.
The tigers’ keepers kept an eye on the birth of the cubs using a closed-circuit camera system.
Both cubs are male, and represent the second litter for Dorcas and their father, Berani, zookeepers said.
The boys were born two years and a day after the arrival of big sister Kinleigh Rose, who became the first Sumatran tiger birth in the zoo's 102-year history on Nov. 19, 2015.
“One of the biggest pleasures as the zoo’s tiger-management program evolves is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, supervisor of mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother. She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”
Zookeepers have built a strong bond with Dorcas, which allowed them to separate the cubs from her briefly Tuesday for their first medical exam, where Dr. Yousuf Jafarey determined they look healthy, are nursing well and have no congenital health problems.
Both cubs weighed in right at 4.5 pounds, zookeepers said.
The cubs are staying with their mother in the nesting box, which is behind the scenes in the tiger viewing building, and will not be on exhibit for several months.
Zoo guests can watch a live video feed of the next box in the tiger viewing building in the Land of the Tiger exhibit.
Before the boys can join their father and mother in the outdoor habitat, they'll need a series of vaccinations, health exams and even a swim test, zookeepers said.
Zoo officials said the birth of two Sumatran tiger cubs is especially significant because the zoo’s tigers are part of a globally managed species program that works to maintain a healthy population, which is currently at less than 400 Sumatran tigers in the wild.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ cubs will help staff highlight the work being conducted in Indonesia to protect Sumatran tigers and their prey, officials said.
Since the Land of the Tiger exhibit opened in 2014, the Jacksonville Zoo has supported an elite Wildlife Protection Unit consisting of four highly trained rangers who risk their lives each day to protect BBS National Park, one of the last of the tiger strongholds, zoo officials said.
With 75 cents of each paid admission going toward conservation, guests and members have helped the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens contribute more than $1 million to conserving plants and animals in the wild over the last five years.
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