Tiger cubs at Fresno Chaffee Zoo pouncing, growling, growing

The Fresno BeeFebruary 3, 2014 

The new Malayan tiger cubs at Fresno Chaffee Zoo are starting to see each other's adorable mugs.

Since their birth Jan. 5, the two girls and two boys have done a lot of sleeping and playing. They stay in their own kind of playpen -- built with wooden bumper guards on a bed of grass hay in the tiger barn -- and are under the watchful eye of Mek, their mother.

But their lives are starting to change. Those baby blue-gray eyes are seeing more.

That includes a ball placed in the playpen Monday, when the cubs turned 30 days old. Some hissed at the ball. Others didn't see it, smacking their noses against it.

"Some can look at you -- and you can see they're looking at you," said Lyn Myers, assistant curator at the zoo. "Others are still glassy-eyed."

No one can pin it on their improved vision, but the cubs' growls at each other have gotten louder and their fights have become more frequent.

Eventually, their eyes will turn golden in color.

Mainly, the cubs sleep -- up to 20 hours a day. They also nurse when Mek says so. She isn't on a schedule. She nurses them every 20 minutes. But sometimes, two hours pass until she nurses them again.

Everything's good. On Jan. 15, the cubs' weights ranged from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds. The range now is between 6 and 7 1/2 pounds.

There are only about 500 Malayan tigers remaining in the wild. The United States is the only country with a breeding program, which involves about 60 of the big cats in 26 zoos.

Last year, two litters totaling seven Malayan tiger cubs were born in Little Rock, Ark., and Tampa, Fla.

Mek, who is considered fairly old to be a parent at 16 years, had a litter about three years ago at the San Diego Zoo. She was moved to Fresno specifically to breed since she had bred previously with Paka, the zoo's male.

The cubs will not go into the outdoor enclosure for about another month, weather permitting. For now, visitors to the zoo can view the cubs on a live-feed video screen.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304 or rorozco@fresnobee.com.

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