Weeks af­ter tiger birth, zoo de­clares cub a male

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY MARTIN WEIL martin.weil@wash­post.com

It ap­pears that the Su­ma­tran tiger cub born this month at the Na­tional Zoo is a male. This was not ob­vi­ous when the cub was born July 11, and ob­tain­ing the in­for­ma­tion took some luck.

“It can be dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine” the gen­der of a new­born cat, said Craig Saf­foe, who is cu­ra­tor of the zoo’s Great Cats. The anatom­i­cal fea­tures that could as­sist in the de­ter­mi­na­tion “can look very sim­i­lar for the first few weeks,” he said Thurs­day.

Not only that, but as may seem ob­vi­ous, try­ing to spirit a tiger cub from its mother for pur­poses of ex­am­i­na­tion is not the sort of task that many would an­tic­i­pate with en­thu­si­asm.

It seems, how­ever, that there have been mo­ments when the cub’s mother, Da­mai, has left the den, for food and hy­giene. These times ap­par­ently per­mit­ted telling scru­tiny of the new­born.

“At a glance,” said Saf­foe, “it ap­pears that Da­mai has a male cub!”

Few mam­mals seem to have the same te­na­cious grip on the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion as the tiger.

A res­i­dent of the land of both myth and metaphor, the tiger prob­a­bly prowls the cor­ri­dors of the mind as much or more than it does its nat­u­ral habi­tat, and hence its do­ings have a spe­cial fas­ci­na­tion.

The Su­ma­tran tiger is par­tic­u­larly hard-pressed to sur­vive in the wild. Ac­cord­ing to the zoo, it is listed as crit­i­cally en­dan­gered by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture.

Es­ti­mates sug­gest that the num­bers liv­ing in the wild are be­tween 300 and 400.

So the birth ear­lier this month of the cub was greeted at the zoo with great ex­cite­ment.

De­scrib­ing the birth as a mile­stone, the zoo said it was Da­mai’s sec­ond, and a first for the fa­ther, Sparky. The birth came 18 days be­fore the day des­ig­nated as “Global Tiger Day.”

To help ob­serve the day, on Satur­day the zoo pro­vided a cou­ple of salient tiger facts.

One was that, as the old say­ing has it, you can tell a tiger by its stripes. Each tiger has a unique pat­tern, the zoo said, and sci­en­tists use them for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

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