Auckland Zoo's Sumatran tiger Zayana gives birth to two cubs after tragedy last year

Auckland Zoo's Sumatran tiger Zayana.
Auckland Zoo's Sumatran tiger Zayana. Photo credit: Supplied / Auckland Zoo

Auckland Zoo's five-year-old Sumatran tiger Zayana has given birth to two cubs after a tragic end to her first pregnancy last year.

The cubs were born in the early hours of January 2 and estimated to each weigh a little under 1kg, the zoo said.

In September 2023, the first-time mother also gave birth to two cubs, but one died during delivery. Left with only one offspring, the tiger killed the cub overnight in an instinctual attack.

This time, however, both newborns looked to be doing well and were receiving the undivided attention of Zayana, who had so far been demonstrating great mothering skills.

Auckland Zoo carnivore team lead senior keeper Nick Parashchak said Zayana chose to give birth outside within a sheltered den in the tiger habitat.

"It's incredibly exciting to have achieved this milestone, and we're cautiously optimistic that everything will continue to track well for Zayana and her cubs.

"But as with any animal births, the first weeks for both mother and offspring are always critical," he said.

"From a safe and discrete distance, we've been monitoring her and the cubs. 

"It's great to see how focused she is on ensuring both cubs are well positioned to be able to regularly suckle from her to get the vital nutrients and food they need to grow and thrive."

Screens are currently in place at the tiger habitat area where Zayana and her cubs are, and Parashchak was asking visitors to pass by the area quietly for the next few days to provide extra privacy for the tigers.

He said although visitors would not be able to see the cubs just yet, there currently was not a timeline for when male Ramah would have access to a separate area of the tiger habitat.

The latest birth follows a breeding recommendation from Zoos and Aquariums Association of Australasia (ZAA) Sumatran tiger Species Management Plan for Zayana and male Ramah.

The regional programme is part of the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA) Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for this critically endangered big cat whose population numbers fewer than 400 in the wild.