Auckland Zoo’s female tiger Zayana (4), a first-time mother, gave birth last Friday afternoon (1 September). Unfortunately, one of the cubs was stillborn and the other did not survive.

The Zoo’s carnivore team were encouraged to see Zayana’s natural instincts come to the fore when she was faced with the challenging situation of giving birth to just a single cub.

“In the wild, the mortality rate for juvenile big cats is high (50% - 70%) and research shows that producing only one offspring creates an even tougher higher-stakes situation. Similarly in zoo-based populations, survival rates for a single cub versus multiple cubs are also less successful,” says Auckland Zoo carnivore team leader Lauren Booth.

“A tiger mother always wants to ensure that the two intensive years of effort and resource she needs to invest in raising offspring (a time during which she cannot reproduce) will benefit her species’ population and survival. Having a larger litter size offers Sumatran tigers the best chance of successfully rearing young, so when only one cub is born – a vulnerable situation, it’s not unusual for a tiger mother to kill the remaining cub, which is what has happened here.

Zayana will shortly come back into oestrus (season) and will once again have the opportunity to mate with male Ramah. All going well, we hope she will go on to produce a litter of healthy cubs.

“While it’s sad that this first breeding has been unsuccessful, Zayana has proven she can successfully conceive and give birth, and we observed her demonstrating some positive mothering behaviours towards the first cub prior to the birth of the stillborn cub,” says Lauren.

Importantly, Zayana’s own health and wellbeing is good. After an exhausting couple of days she has had plenty of rest and care from the carnivore team, and they report she is now back to her relaxed self - which is great, especially as she is now coming into oestrus and will soon have the opportunity to be with Ramah again.

Further Information:

  • Auckland Zoo’s Sumatran tigers: Male Ramah (6) from Oklahoma City Zoo and female Zayana (4) from Topeka Zoo and Conservation Centre (Kansas) arrived at Auckland Zoo in early November 2022. With their arrival came a breeding recommendation from the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for Sumatran tigers, who bring valuable new genetics to enhance and sustain the Australasian region’s population for this Critically Endangered big cat species.
  • Breeding: Female Sumatran tigers reach sexual maturity around 3-4 years of age, and males at 4-5 years. Females come into oestrous every three to nine weeks, and following conception, have a 100 – 108-day gestation before giving birth. Average litter size is 2-3 cubs, which the female rears alone. In the wild, there can be between 200-250 matings over the course of the female’s receptive period (between 4-7 days) – as cats are induced ovulators – requiring the multiple stimulation for ovulation to occur.
  • Conservation status: The Sumatran tiger is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of Threatened Species. Fewer than 400 of these tigers remain in the wild. Internally within zoos, there are close to another 400, as part of zoos’ global breeding and advocacy programme for this species.
  • Zoo support helping Sumatran tigers in the wild: Auckland Zoo, through its Conservation Fund, supports a Lingkar Initiative Indonesia Project via WildCats Conservation Alliance. This project works to strengthen conservation of Sumatran tigers in the south-west of Kerinci Seblat National Park - through collaboration with government agencies and religious leaders, while building lasting support among the community for Sumatra tiger conservation using Islamic perspectives and values. We also support the Sumatran Ranger Project (SRP). SRP’s rangers work in collaboration with local communities, to protect the wildlife (including tigers) and habitats of Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra – part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the most diverse habitats on Earth. When visiting the Zoo, our community joins us in supporting these and many other vital projects working to save threatened wildlife -here in Aotearoa and around the world, as a portion of their ticket goes to the Conservation Fund.