December 31, 2005

National Zoo Tiger Cubs Head for Denver

WASHINGTON -- Three little brothers whose antics have drawn crowds at the National Zoo for more than a year are all grown up now and getting kicked out of the house.

Marah, Jalan and Besar - Sumatran tiger cubs - are approaching 200 pounds apiece, an adult's size. Their mother is pushing them away, another sign that they are no longer little kittens even though they still play that way.

Next week, the 19-month-old males are being shipped to Landry's Downtown Aquarium in Denver to become part of a worldwide captive-breeding program. The Denver facility already has two 7-year-old males and a 5-year-old female.

They were born May 2, 2004. Fourteen weeks later they made their debut in the zoo's tiger exhibit.

"Plenty of visitors not only came to see them on their first day out, but they've returned on a weekly or monthly basis to visit the three cubs," said John Gibbons, a spokesman for the zoo, which is operated by the Smithsonian Institution.

The brothers are among 210 Sumatran tigers living in captivity. Only about 500 are believed to remain in the wild in Indonesia.

The zoo's female, Soyono, and her mate, Rokan, produced a single male cub in 2001. Zoo officials are hoping a third litter could come sometime next year.

The National Zoo's Great Cats program has been among its most prolific captive-breeding operations. Besides the Sumatran tigers, the zoo has had two litters of cheetah cubs in just over a year, including the first litter ever born at the zoo.

The biggest attraction at the zoo in northwest Washington remains the giant panda exhibit with cub Tai Shan, born July 9, and his mother, Mei Xiang, and his father, Tian Tian.

The National Zoo has about 2,000 other animals representing nearly 435 species.


On the Net:

The National Zoo: http://nationalzoo.si.edu

Landry's Downtown Aquarium-Denver: http://www.aquariumrestaurants.com/downtownaquariumdenver