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Tiger Cubs Get Hands-On Treatment

Evening Edition

Two critically endangered species are getting special hands-on treatment from keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Tiger Cubs Get Hands-On Treatment
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Aired 4/6/12 on KPBS News.

Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are desensitizing two male Sumatran tiger cubs from human touch in order to easily handle them for veterinary care.

They are desensitizing the male Sumatran tiger cubs from human touch in order easily handle them for veterinary care.

Tina Hunter, senior keeper at the Safari Park, said she is acclimating them to human touch to reassure the cubs it is not bad when humans are near them.

Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the Safari Park, said it’s a long process of seeing how the mother is reacting to the keeper’s being close to the cubs. The ultimate goal is to be able to separate mom, Delta, from her cubs without aggression.

“We’re not actually trying to change them into a pet, we’re allowing them to be a wild animal,” he said. “Involving ourselves in their lives early on makes their life much better in the long run because we can do clinical procedures without immobilizations.”

Tigers are large predators, and throwing in maternal aspects can make females very aggressive. Rieches said since Delta is used to humans, she is helping to desensitize her offspring.

Born on March 6, the cubs are the 24th and 25th birth of this species since 1978.

The Safari Park is currently home to six Sumatran tigers and has moved animals to 19 different zoos in the United States for the Species Survival Program.

Keepers expect the cubs to go on exhibit with their mother in the summer.

The park is also fundraising to build a new tiger exhibit that will offer up-close views of the cats and highlight conservation efforts for the species. The Asian Tiger Trail will have three large habitats, allowing the park to bring in more tigers and breed them.

People going to the park and seeing the new habitat will help in the conservation efforts for the tigers’ native home of Sumatra. There are only about 400 of the Sumatran tiger species left in the world.

“We appreciate people coming to the park because it gives us the opportunity to do conservation work in Sumatra with this species because it is in such great peril as unfortunately many other species,” Rieches said.

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