The birth of a tiger cub – ZSL London Zoo’s first in 17 years – has been captured on hidden cameras.
After a pregnancy lasting approximately 105 days and a six-minute labour, five-year-old Sumatran tiger Melati gave birth to a single cub at 9:22pm on Sunday 22 September.
The pregnancy was kept under wraps by zookeepers, so that they could keep a careful eye on the first-time mother via hidden cameras installed to keep watch on Melati without disturbing her.
Born exactly six months after the opening of the brand new Tiger Territory exhibit, opened by Prince Philip in March and designed specifically to encourage breeding of this critically endangered and declining sub-species, the tiger keepers are thrilled with the new arrival.
Zookeeper Paul Kybett said: “We are simply over-the-moon about the birth of the tiger cub; it’s a momentous occasion for everyone at ZSL London Zoo and a real cause for celebration.
“We were nervous about the pregnancy, as it was Melati’s first cub and we didn’t know how she’d react. When it came to her due date, we were all watching our monitors with bated breath.
“The actual birth happened very quickly and Melati’s maternal instincts kicked in immediately as she started licking the cub all over and it soon began wriggling around - we couldn’t have asked for a smoother birth!
“It’s still very early days, so we’re leaving Melati alone to take care of her adorable baby, and our cameras allow us to watch them both from a distance - so far she’s proving to be a doting mum.”
In a poetic twist-of-fate, the new arrival is a direct descendant of the Zoo’s last cub, Hari, who is the father of Melati.
Currently snuggled in Tiger Territory’s special cubbing dens with mum, it is thought that the as-yet-unsexed cub will remain off-show for a few more weeks, until Melati is ready to show him or her off to the world.
Visitors to the Zoo can see five-year-old dad Jae Jae chilling out in the 2,500sqm enclosure, as he leaves nappy duties and night-time feeds to Melati.
There are only 300 Sumatran tigers left in the wild and their habitat is being lost to the manufacture of palm oil.