Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo announced Tuesday that on Sept. 11 the zoo welcomed its first critically endangered Malayan tiger cub. With only 250 Malayan tigers left in the wild, the implications of this birth "could be massive in the protection of the species both in the wild and in human care," the zoo wrote in a news release.
Close-up pictures aren't available yet as the zookeepers leave the mom and cub alone in their den, but a video of the pair was released Tuesday showing the super-cute baby tiger nursing.
The cub was born to the tiger named Bzui (pronounced Ba-ZOO-ee), and is being cared for in a den out of sight of visitors, away from the exhibit. The pair will likely not be on exhibit for several weeks as Bzui nurses and cares for the cub as she would in the wild, zoo officials said.
Bzui came to the zoo last spring to join her mate, Mata, as a recommendation from the Association of Zoo's and Aquarium's Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan.
"The cub is growing normally and nursing well," said Larry Killmar, the zoo's chief zoological officer. "Our zoo is proud to be working to preserve a species like the Malayan tiger, which is facing a growing number of threats in the wild."
Malayan tigers are the smallest of all tiger species, with an average weight of 260 pounds for adult males and 220 pounds for females. Poaching and rapid habitat decline are two primary causes for their continued population decline, as well as heightened conflict from expanding human development.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has determined the Malayan tiger is critically endangered — one step away from becoming extinct in the wild.
The zoo will update its Facebook page and on Twitter with regular news on the cub's development, photos and announcements concerning when the cub will be introduced to the tiger habitat.
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