Tiger Beat: Fresno zoo's Malayan cubs become little noisemakers

The Fresno BeeFebruary 10, 2014 

Follow the growth of the Malayan tiger cubs with Tiger Beat, a weekly peek inside Fresno Chaffee Zoo's tiger barn. Because of the President's Day holiday, the next update will be Tuesday, Feb. 25.

All four of Fresno Chaffee Zoo's Malayan tiger cubs have added about a pound each in the past week.

The four bouncing balls of striped fur are making new sounds — chuffing and hissing.

Chuffing is a sound made with a closed mouth by blowing through the nostrils, producing a breathy snort. Chuffing is "a greeting sound," says Lyn Myers, the zoo's assistant curator who oversees the tigers' care.

"It's the sound you want to hear if you meet up with one," she says.

Hissing, however, is a sound you don't want to hear.

When they have to crane their necks to look up at people they usually hiss, she says.

"We hear them definitely chuff at mom," Myers said. "I would bet I get a hiss more than a chuff."

The cubs, now 37 days old, range from 7.06 pounds to 8.67 pounds.

They still cuddle together within their makeshift box in a veterinary wing, but they are more often climbing out, causing their mother, Mek, to mouth them on the scruff to return them to the box, Myers says.

Outside the tiger enclosure, visitors crowd around a television monitor that records the cubs' every move and fire questions at Myers, who gladly responds.

One visitor asked if the male, Paka, wandering the enclosure a few feet away, ever sees the cubs. Myers says many tiger fathers eat their young. She's not sure Paka would do that, but zoo officials don't want to find out.

The cubs will be ready to go out into the enclosure — weather permitting — sometime in March.


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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