The zookeepers were elated when a tigress went into labor. Shortly after she gave birth to a cub, the zookeepers, who had their eyes glued to the camera, witnessed something incredible.
The 7-year-old Sumatran tigress, named Melati, was expecting, so the staff at ZSL London Zoo kept a close eye on the mom-to-be via a remote camera system nicknamed “cubcam.” The new mom, from a critically endangered species of the world, went into labor on June 27, 2016. She gave birth to a healthy cub after a 108-day pregnancy; moments later, the dad, Jae Jae, also came over to check on the newborn. But less than one hour later, the zookeepers noticed something that’s just an incredibly rare phenomenon.
Melati was not feeling comfortable but acting kind of “strange.” This worried the zookeepers; however, it didn’t take long for the staff to realize that the new mom was in labor again, and then she delivered the second cub—twins! The staff was thrilled and overjoyed as giving birth to twins is not a common occurrence for tigers.
According to the zoo’s press release, the staff watched excitedly as the first cub arrived at 9:19 a.m., and in less than one hour, they noticed a second cub was born at 10:02 a.m.
The newborn cubs—Achilles, the male cub, and Karis, the female cub—were then cleaned by their mom before they nestled in for their first feed, while their mom took a rest. In a video released by the zoo, the newborn cubs are shown to be active and playful.
“We’re overjoyed with our new arrivals, and with how Melati is responding to her two cubs,” Teague Stubbington, an assistant curator of mammals, said in the press release.
“The cubcam allows us to observe the youngsters 24/7 while not disturbing mom or dad at all, which is ideal while they get to know their babies. One of us is always on duty to keep an eye on the little ones throughout the night. Dad Jae Jae has also been spotted taking a peek at his new-borns!”
In case one wants to tell the twins apart, the zoo wrote in a blog post that one should look out for “two distinct curves that come out of the outer corners” of Achilles’s eyes. “These thick, dark lines are extremely prominent in comparison to the markings around Karis’s eyes, making it quite a nifty way to tell the two apart.”
Sumatran tigers are a critically endangered subspecies of tiger native to the jungles in Sumatra, Indonesia. “With wild Sumatran tiger numbers estimated to be as low as 300 individuals, the cubs represent a huge achievement not just for ZSL London Zoo but for the global breeding program of this critically endangered species,” the press release noted.
Andjar Rafiastanto, a manager working in Indonesia to protect the wild Sumatran tigers, said, “This is exciting news for the Sumatran tiger, a flagship species for the ZSL conservation program in Indonesia.
“ZSL has been in Sumatra for more than 14 years, working with our government counterparts to increase the protection of Sumatran tigers. The birth of these two tiger cubs brings us hope for their long-term survival.”