One was rejected by his mother, the other seized from smugglers: How two lonely tiger cubs became pals

The tiger cub confiscated at the Otay Mesa border crossing last month and currently living at the Safari Park in Escondido has a new playmate — a cub flown Monday from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

The new arrival is a 9-week-old endangered male Sumatran tiger, whose mother was increasingly aggressive toward him during nursing, zoo officials said.

Keepers decided to transfer the cub here, in part because the cub’s mother, Damai, is on a breeding loan to the National Zoo from the Safari Park.

Plans were to introduce the new cub slowly to the other young tiger that’s been at the park since Aug. 23, when it was seized at the border from someone planning to keep it as a pet.



Because the Sumatran did well on the flight from Washington, the keepers opted to let the cubs meet Monday afternoon in the Safari Park’s nursery. Video provided by the park shows the two jumping and wrestling, rough-housing as cubs will do.

“We are beyond thrilled to welcome this tiger cub,” Andy Blue, associate curator of mammals at the Safari Park, said in a statement. “His keepers reported he did extremely well during the flight — slept most of the way. Our priority now is to ensure he continues to thrive and acclimates well to his new surroundings.”


The Sumatran cub was born July 11. When he was 19 days old, zoo officials said, his mother became aggressive toward him while he was nursing.

On Aug. 23, her aggression increased, and keepers suspected she was either not producing enough milk or had stopped producing altogether.

They moved the cub to a separate enclosure next door, with a viewing area that enabled him to maintain visual contact with his mom.

But on Sept. 4, Damai entered a mating cycle, making reunification with the cub impossible, zoo officials said, and the decision was made to send him here.

Because the cub confiscated at the border remains under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it could not be transferred out of state to the National Zoo, officials said.

Wilkens writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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