View from the Zoo: Predator that leads a solitary life in the wild

Surya, the Sumatran tiger who celebrated her eighth birthday recently.
Surya, the Sumatran tiger who celebrated her eighth birthday recently.
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This week at Flamingo Land we celebrated one of our Sumatran tiger’s birthday. We have a male tiger named Bawa and our female tiger, Surya, turned eight on Sunday 5 February. Bawa originally came from the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent, and Surya from Paignton zoo in Devon. Bawa is named after an island just off the coast of Sumatra whilst Surya is Indonesian for Sun.

Sumatran tigers are resident to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are the smallest subspecies of tiger in the world. The stripes of the Sumatran tigers are much narrower compared to other subspecies and they have larger manes. These tigers can reach sizes of about 2.5m in length and their smaller size allows them to travel through the dense Sumatran rainforest with ease.

Unfortunately their natural habitat is being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Ongoing deforestation, along with illegal hunting, has made these tigers one of the most endangered subspecies of tiger. They are classed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list of threatened species.

In an attempt to halt this decline, Sumatran tigers were made part of an international breeding programme that involves over 250 animals worldwide, including the tigers at Flamingo Land who are one of just three contributing zoos in the UK. The movement of Sumatran tigers involved with this programme are coordinated by a studbook keeper, with pairings carefully selected to maximise genetic diversity. There are estimated to be less than 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, so it’s very important that we have a breeding population in captivity.

In the wild, tigers are solitary animals living and hunting alone, only coming together to breed. This means we must keep Bawa and Surya separate. Every now and then we allow the tigers to swap sides of their enclosure so they can scent mark and communicate with one another.

The tigers receive a daily feed at 1pm along with our keeper talk.

To keep it varied and interesting for them, the pieces of meat vary in size each day and the keeper puts it in different places.

This means that the tigers have to use their senses to figure out where the food has been placed; therefore it is a form of enrichment for them.