West Midland Safari Park

Safari Park reveals how they had to step in to help their tiger cub's development

Posted: 29th September, 2023

West Midland Safari Park has revealed the results of a recent health check of its Sumatran tiger cub, including a naming celebration and how keepers had to intervene to help the cub walk.

To announce the sex of the almost three-month-old cub, keepers prepared a large papier mâché piñata, which dad, Nakal, enjoyed ripping apart, revealing the bright pink contents, indicating that the cub is female.

Following the confirmation, keepers have chosen the name ‘Lestari’, meaning eternal and abiding in Indonesian (the language spoken in Sumatran tigers’ native homeland of Sumatra).

The discovery that the cub was female came earlier than expected, as the Park’s veterinary team had to intervene, following watching CCTV of the cub, where they started to suspect that something wasn’t quite right.

Lindsey Baines, the Park’s Veterinary Surgeon, explained, “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 when they spotted the stripy youngster’s arrival on CCTV, at 2:36am on 4 July 2023, to mum, 11-year-old Dourga and dad, nine-year-old Nakal, who were only introduced to each other in August last year.

The birth was a milestone moment, as Lestari is the first Sumatran tiger cub to be born at the Park, marking fantastic news for conservation efforts, as Sumatran tigers are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, with fewer than 400 individuals remaining in the wild.

This is why every effort has been made to ensure the cub’s survival, which has been a real collaborative effort from the keepers and veterinary team.

Head Keeper of Carnivores at the Park, Chris Hodgkins, 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!”

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.

As keepers are happy with Lestari’s progress, they hope to give her access to the main Tiger Tropics habitat in the next couple of weeks, where both day guests and Tiger Lodge (the Park’s onsite accommodation) guests may be able to spot glimpses of her.

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