Whether swimming, climbing, sleeping, or checking out visitors and other animals from the advantageous height of their ‘lowlands’ habitat bridges, Sumatran tigers Ramah and Zayana are loving life in their new home here at Auckland Zoo.

As these photos show, male Ramah (5), who like Zayana (4) arrived from America just over two months ago, is especially loving the habitat’s climbing tree - where our carnivore keepers will place tasty meat treats that require quite the workout to reach!

“Ramah absolutely loves being outside. He’s also very food orientated, so strongly motivated to do whatever it takes to satisfy his appetite. Regular climbing like this – where he’s sometimes having to go up numerous times to get all of his reward - is great for building up his muscle strength, and it’s fantastic for our visitors to be able to see just how agile, strong, and fast these big cats are,” says carnivore keeper Kristin Mockford.

Kristin says both tigers are very active, are now super relaxed, and confidently utilising all three different areas of their habitat - including the pool and beach area, and don’t seem at all bothered by this summer’s wet weather! They are also happily sleeping right up against the windows of the tiger shared shelter, giving visitors incredible up-close experiences of them.  

The relocation of these critically endangered tigers from Oklahoma City Zoo and Topeka Zoo & Conservation Center (Kanas) – part of an international breeding and advocacy programme between zoos, will sometime in the coming months see them paired up to mate. However, this is something that has to be done very carefully explains Kristin.

“Tigers are primarily solitary, and generally only come together for breeding, so it’s really important we take things slowly. We need to get to know Zayana’s reproductive cycle patterns and ensure both cats are also super comfortable and confident in their habitat’s inside areas, which is where they’ll first come together without any barrier between them.

“Ramah loves the outdoors but is still just getting comfortable with his new indoor space so we’re helping him with this by doing lots of training inside and giving him plenty of positive experiences here – like having his breakfast,” says Kristin.

If you’ve visited the Zoo recently, you may have already heard the wonderful sound of these tigers calling to each other – which happens when Zayana is in season.

“We’re already seeing positive signs that these two cats like each other, and Zayana has just come into season again this week, so they’re calling again, and will do so for the next couple of weeks.

“We’re closely tracking these vocalisations along with other behaviours like the prusten or chuffing – a soft low-density sound they make to each other, and Zayana presenting herself and displaying playful behaviour like rolling around. When they are able to be up close with just a mesh barrier separating them, via our night cameras, we’re seeing them cheek rubbing to each other. They’re also really into exploring where each other has been – sniffing out each other’s scents as well as visually checking each other out.”

Kristin says when Zayana isn’t in season, as expected and naturally happens in the wild, Ramah doesn’t want anything to do with the female feline in his vicinity. “That’s tigers being tigers – and is a good thing!”

In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to keeping you posted about Ramah and Zayana’s progress, that all going well, will in time result in tiger cubs! In the meantime, you can see them here in our South East Asia Jungle Track ‘lowlands’ habitat, and also find out how, with you our visitors, we’re helping support the conservation of these extraordinary big cats in the wild.