Life is going well for four tigers born at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
The cubs that were met with much fanfare after their birth in January 2014 are now large, healthy teenagers who like climbing trees and checking out the opposite sex.
It’s been a year since brothers Berani and Cinta were moved to the San Diego Zoo and five months since sister Batari was moved to the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in Rosamond. Arya remains at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
Conservationists estimate there are only about 300 Malayan tigers left in the wild. The destruction of rainforests to make way for crops – especially the production of palm oil – continues to dwindle their numbers.
I hope they see how incredible they are and then want to help us save them by helping save their habitats.
Jo Ann Haddad, San Diego Zoo
To protect the endangered species, tigers in captivity are often moved to new facilities in hopes they will breed with tigers to which they are the least related.
Arya, Berani, Cinta and Batari’s caretakers updated The Bee about the 2-year-olds:
Arya remains at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with mother, Mek, 18, and a male tiger, Gahara, 11, who arrived last summer from a zoo in Oklahoma.
Gahara was brought in to mate with Mek, but he likes daughter Arya more. She’s a little shy and likes to tear things up, but she’s a “cool” cat.
Most animals at the zoo are governed by the species survival plan. That basically tells us who needs to be breeding with who in order to keep genetics clean.
“To be fully sexually mature is 3 years old, so she’s not quite there for him to breed with her, but he thinks so,” zookeeper Erica Tilbury says with a laugh.
Mating can be a dangerous business for tigers, who live a life of solitude in the wild except when called to procreate. Some tigers in captivity have killed each other when placed in the same enclosure to mate, so caretakers are careful to do a good job at playing matchmaker.
Their enclosures will also be expanded and redesigned as part of larger zoo renovation plans. A construction date hasn’t been set, but zookeepers say it could be within a couple years.
Berani and Cinta
Berani and Cinta now live alongside their older brother from another litter, 5-year-old Connor, at the San Diego Zoo.
Malayans and Sumatrans are the smaller guys. About 190 to 210 pounds is the average, so they are pretty small tigers.
Senior mammal keeper Jo Ann Haddad says they’ve “done awesome” acclimating to their new home.
Haddad says the big cats remain cublike in many ways – climbing high into trees and playing with water and toys made from natural items. They snuggle with a ball made out of palm wood and bat around a bamboo teeter totter like it’s a tetherball.
They’ve been a joy to have.
Jo Ann Haddad
The 2-year-olds continue to share an enclosure. It hasn’t been decided when they will be moved into their own cages.
“In the wild at this age, they would go off on their own,” Haddad says. “Tigers are solitary. It’s kind of like watching teenage boys – when does play fighting get to be too much?”
As is, the young brothers seem to get along – mostly – and there are no lady tigers around to fight over.
“Berani is the more aggressive of the two,” Haddad says. “He is more dominant. Cinta is a calmer cat, more carefree. If there is a new toy or something in the exhibit, he will be the first to check it out and Berani will sit back, but then will come and take it away.”
Batari was brought to the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in Rosamond in October in hopes that she will eventually mate with a tiger named Jango. The courtship seems to be going well – the two often lay side by side in their cages – but the 17-month-old Jango won’t be sexually mature until he’s 3 or 4.
Batari was introduced to another male tiger in Fresno, but love was not in the air for the pair.
Head keeper Seth Cantrell of the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound says Batari is “a little more shy” than the other big cats, but things are going well.