It's a girl! Safari park throws 'gender reveal' party for dad of tiger cub
In what might be the first of its kind, a tiger had a 'gender reveal' celebration for its new cub.
To announce the gender of the almost three-month-old Sumatran cub, keepers at West Midland Safari Park (WMSP) prepared a large papier mâché piñata, which was ripped apart by dad Nakal to reveal the bright pink contents, indicating that the cub is female.
Keepers have chosen the name Lestari, meaning eternal and abiding in Indonesian – the language spoken in Sumatran tigers' native homeland of Sumatra.
The cubs gender reveal came earlier than expected after the park's veterinary team suspected that Lestari's development was problematic.
Staff watched CCTV and noticed that the cub's front legs were weak.
Lindsey Baines, the Park’s Veterinary Surgeon, said: "At four weeks old, our tiger cub showed a weakness in her front limbs which was affecting her development.
"After many hours of research and discussions with specialists, the veterinary team set up a physiotherapy programme, which was carried out over three weeks. This involved exercises and creating walking aids, to help strengthen her legs.
"We had to do these in short, quick sessions, so she wasn’t away from her mum, Dourga for long.
"The cub responded extremely well and surprised us all at how quickly she progressed. She is now running around completely normally, chasing her mum and exploring her outdoor, off-show habitat.
"The veterinary team are thrilled with her progress and are looking forward to watching her grow."
Keepers were 'thrilled' to see footage of baby Lestari's arrival, which was at 2.36am on July 4 2023 to her mum, 11-year-old Dourga, and dad, nine-year-old Nakal. The pair were introduced to each other in August last year.
The birth was described as a 'milestone moment', as Lestari is the first Sumatran tiger cub to be born at the park.
It marked good news for the conservation of the critically endangered species, of which there are less than 400 individuals remaining in the wild.
Chris Hodgkins, head keeper of carnivores at the park, said: "The keepers and I are thrilled to see how much the cub has improved following on from the diagnosis and seeing how far she has come.
"She is definitely getting around much better and it's great to see how much of a positive impact a small bit of veterinary and keeper care has improved her mobility. She is certainly keeping Dourga busy now!"
Information from WMSP revealed that all tigers in the wild face an uncertain future due to habitat loss, conflict with humans, and poaching for the illegal trade in tiger body parts.
It is estimated that there may be fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild, with only 400 of those being Sumatran tigers, which makes them the most endangered of the subspecies.
The Sumatran tigers at the Safari Park are part of an EEP (EAZA Ex-Situ Programme), which is a collaborative breeding programme between European zoos, aiming to conserve endangered species.
Keepers hope to give Lestari access to the main Tiger Tropics habitat in the next two of weeks, where both day guests and Tiger Lodge (the park's onsite accommodation) guests may be able to spot glimpses of her.
The tigers can be seen on foot in Tiger Tropics and tigers Ben, Buster and Hujan, can be seen on the safari drive-through. These are included in the admission charge. Children under the age of three are free.
Adventure Theme Park rides are charged extra. Admission includes a free return to visit again within six months, only when booking online in advance.
More information can be found at https://www.wmsp.co.uk/.