Sumatran Tiger Cub Birth At London Zoo, First In 17 Years, Is Captured On Hidden Camera [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on October 2, 2013 4:21 PM EDT

tiger cub
The London Zoo saw its first birth of a Sumatran tiger cub in 17 years. Above, a female Sumatran tiger cub born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in August. (Photo: Reuters)

The birth of a Sumatran tiger cub at the London Zoo was captured on hidden camera, the zoo announced today (video below). The unnamed cub is the first Sumatran tiger born at the zoo in 17 years. As it happens, the mother, five-year-old Melati, is the daughter of Hari, the last cub born at the zoo.

Melati became pregnant while in the zoo's new Tiger Territory exhibit, which was designed to encourage breeding of Sumatran tigers (presumably by piping in the dulcet tones of Al Green). Created just six months ago, the tiger territory seems to be doing its job. Sumatran tigers can take as long as five years to breed once they're matched with a partner. But once Melati met Jae Jae, the father of the cub, the two got on famously, mating up to 40 times a day.

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During Melati's 105-day pregnancy, zookeepers stayed away from the Sumatran tiger, observing her through hidden cameras while she stayed in a "cubbing room."

"We were nervous about the pregnancy, as it was Melati's first cub and we didn't know how she'd react," said zookeeper Paul Kybett. "When it came to her due date, we were all watching our monitors with bated breath. The actual birth happened very quickly and Melati's maternal instincts kicked in immediately as she started licking the cub all over and it soon began wriggling around -- we couldn't have asked for a smoother birth."

Melati and her cub, whose gender isn't yet known, will be left alone for three weeks. Zookeepers will continue to watch Melati and the cub through the cameras. Father Jae Jae is currently on display, where the mother and cub will soon join him.

The Sumatran tiger is a critically endangered species. Only about 400 individuals exist in the wild, all on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Another 360 Sumatran tigers or so live in zoos, with about 70 living in the United States. The Sumatran tiger is the only surviving species of the Sunda Islands group of tigers, which formerly included Bali tigers and Javan tigers.

READ MORE:

Sumatran Tiger Cubs: Two Cubs Born At National Zoo, A Rarity For The Critically Endangered Species

Endangered Siberian Tiger Making Comeback In China With Human Help 

Royal Bengal Tigers In Nepal: How Did Population Double In Just Four Years?

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