CINCINNATI -- Mike Dulaney, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo, said the whole world is watching their Malayan tiger.
Three-year-old Cinta, the “second-most genetically valuable Malayan tiger in the United States,” Dulaney said, is expected to give birth in the coming weeks. The father, he said, is the third-most genetically valuable Malayan tiger.
For that reason, Cinta’s litter is a huge deal for the Cincinnati Zoo and the Malayan tiger population as a whole.
“We are the only managed population of Malayan tigers (in the world) in North America … so it’s very important that we breed them to keep them going so if we ever are able to let these tigers back into the wild, that we have a good genetic base to go from,” Dulaney said.
Cinta could give birth anytime from late January to early February, Dulaney said, so Cincinnati Zoo officials started conducting “birth watches” so they won’t miss any signs of the cubs. Volunteers will watch the mother-to-be from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. for the next three weeks.
Today starts birth watch for Malayan tiger Cinta! Ultrasounds haven't been performed to confirm but all signs indicate we will see cubs soon pic.twitter.com/CcqKCYt1hS
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) January 23, 2017
Despite the odd hours, Dulaney said there’s no shortage of people willing to give up sleep for cub duty.
“We have a great group of volunteers,” Dulaney said. “They’re always waiting in line for these birth watches.
“It’s been no trouble to fill all the different shifts that we have, even the midnight to 4 a.m. and 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., there are a number of volunteers who are really excited to be doing this.”
Dulaney said volunteers don’t have to be trained, but they are given a list of signs to look for in Cinta’s behavior.
“If she’s up and restless, if she’s straining, if she seems she just can’t get comfortable, they’ll know to alert us,” Dulaney said. “By having people here every night for the next three weeks, they can tell from one nigh to the next if those behaviors change.”
He said monitoring the mother-to-be from a distance is imperative in a successful birth.
“She needs a good day or two to just bond with the cubs,” Dulaney said. “So once we see that there’s cubs, we’re able to observe from here whether she’s nursing them, whether she’s taking care of them properly, if not we are able to step in and move them to our nursery.”
Litter size ranges from one to five cubs, and the average is two to four, according to Dulaney. He said the cubs must be between 12 and 16 weeks before they can be released into the exhibit.
Cubs will most likely be sent to other zoos when they are older for breeding purposes, Dulaney said.