Love Your Tiger Feet

The recent arrival of an adorable trio of Sumatran tiger cubs at ZSL London Zoo was celebrated the world over, but their birth marks a vital chapter in the history of this Critically Endangered species.

We spoke to Lucy Reed, Senior Zookeeper at ZSL London Zoo, about the significance of the cubs’ arrival, the team’s passion and commitment to animal conservation, and the crucial role we can all play in protecting the world’s most endangered species.

Sumatran tigers are the rarest of all tigers. With only 300 remaining in the wild, to say that these gorgeous cubs play an important role in the survival of their Critically Endangered species is an understatement. As Lucy explains, like so many other animals, tigers are threatened by deforestation, and illegal poaching. This habitat loss in their native Indonesia means that the tigers struggle to find food and a potential mate, with the search often bringing this usually elusive, shy species into contact with humans, which causes conflict.

The good news is that organisations such as ZSL are playing a critical role in safeguarding global tiger populations by sharing the tools and knowledge needed to protect them. Caring for these beautiful animals arms the team with vital information that can be communicated to a global network of conservationists committed to safeguarding their survival. As part of ZSL’s successful Sumatran tiger global breeding programme, these three stripy additions to the family will eventually move to other zoos and have cubs of their own, helping to maintain a healthy tiger population in conservation organisations across the world. In the meantime, ZSL’s dedicated members and visitors from across the UK and beyond continue to play an important part in joining the conservation fight. By regularly visiting the cubs and posting pictures of the tiny trio on social media, they are helping to raise awareness about the threats Sumatran tigers are facing in the wild, sharing their knowledge with others to evoke positive change.

As Lucy is keen to highlight, inspiring and educating visitors is a core part of ZSL’s work; all conservation action begins with caring, and that can only come from knowledge. Bringing people face-to-face with threatened species from across the world is the first step to encouraging people to take action; whether that’s by growing up to pursue a career working with animals or in conservation, taking part in beach cleans, or citizen science projects, or even making changes in our daily lives that can make a difference to the environment. It’s clear from Lucy that caring for the tigers takes a tremendous amount of dedication, passion and teamwork; the keepers undergo a comprehensive training programme before they can work with the larger animals, including big cats. The zoo’s Tiger Territory was specifically designed with Sumatran tigers in mind, providing a realistic home-from-home that safeguards the tigers’ wellbeing. It has everything the forest-dwelling species needs, from high platforms to survey their territory and long grasses and trees for camouflage, to heated rocks to cosy up on during cooler days, and even a pool to swim in – unlike many feline species, tigers love swimming!

By watching their mum and dad, Gaysha and Asim, and by playing with each other, the cubs will be encouraged to learn important tiger skills such as climbing, swatting and stalking, before becoming largely independent at about 18 to 24 months. They particularly love to practise pouncing on mum and dad’s tails. The best thing that readers can do to support ZSL is to visit one of ZSL’s two zoos, London or Whipsnade. All funds raised support animal care, and science and conservation work across the globe, inspiring a future generation to treasure the world’s many endangered species and understand our critical role in their survival.

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