Sumatran tiger Zayana’s eight-week-old female cub, recently named Cahya (pronounced Cha-hi-ya), is now weighing in at over 5kg and growing more active and playful by the day!

Our Carnivore team has chosen the name Cahya (the colloquial, shortened form of the Indonesian language word ‘cahaya’) for its meaning – ‘light.’

“It’s a beautiful name, and one that is very fitting for several reasons. Following the sad loss of the male cub last month, thanks to Zayana’s great mothering Cahya is doing great, and she really has been that positive light for us all,” says lead senior carnivore keeper, Nick Parashchak.

“To us, this name also symbolises hope for Sumatran tigers - a critically endangered species doing it incredibly tough in the wild – with an estimated population of only around 400 individuals. Cahya’s birth, part of a global zoos’ breeding and advocacy programme, enables us to continue to shine an important light on these magnificent big cats to grow understanding, appreciation, and support for vital conservation efforts with our conservation partners in Sumatra to help ensure their future.”

“Additionally, and very significantly, this successful breeding by Zayana and male Ramah (who arrived at Auckland Zoo from American zoos in late 2022) introduces valuable new genetics into the Australasian regional sub-population for the species.”

As a very young cub, Cahya is continuing to suckle from Zayana approximately every four hours but has now also begun to nibble on small pieces of meat offered to her by mum.

“Just like a toddler, she needs great nutrition and lots of sleep to support her growth,” explains Nick, “but is waking up regularly and when she does, Cahya is keen to burn off energy.”

“With her squeaks and whines, Cahya is very good at letting mum know when she’s hungry or wants attention and is now also super playful. It’s pretty full-on for Zayana but she’s interacting and playful back and just gently nudges Cahya when she grabs at her mum’s paws and back of her legs.

“It’s great to see Cahya getting increasingly mobile and vocalising strongly when she wants Zayana to stop carrying her and put her down so that she can explore and get around more independently. She is currently moving around in a way that sees her stay low to the ground. In time she’ll naturally gain more strength, especially in her legs, which will support her in more vigorous activities like climbing. “

In another four weeks (late March) when she reaches her three-month milestone, and as Zayana determines she’s ready, Nick and the team say Zoo visitors are likely to see Cahya increasingly out and about and exploring more areas of the tiger (lowlands) habitat.