Sumatran Tiger Cub Born at Smithsonian's National Zoo

The Smithsonian's National Zoo welcomed its newest resident Tuesday, a tiger cub.

Damai, an 8-year-old Sumatran tiger, gave birth to the cub shortly after 4:15 p.m. Tuesday as zookeepers watched via closed-circuit camera. 

Keepers are continuing to watch over the newborn, who appears to be nursing, moving and behaving normally, the zoo said in a press release Wednesday. The cub's sex has not yet been determined. 

This is Damai's second birth, and the first for the cub's father, 13-year-old Sparky. He arrived at the National Zoo last summer. The tigers were introduced in September and bred in March. 

"Keepers' patience with the introduction process, their willingness to study the cats' behaviors and learn from them and our discussions with colleagues here and at other institutions has paid off," Saffoe said. "The result is this amazing little cub."

Staff began monitoring Damai after the breeding and noticed she had started gaining weight and didn't enter another estrus cycle.

Zoo vets confirmed her pregnancy via ultrasound last month, and in recent days, Damai was restless and showed little interest in food, indicating to keepers that birth was imminent.

The new cub is being given time to bond with its mother. Before it can be released for public viewing, it will undergo several vet exams and vaccinations and will need to pass a swim test. The cub could go on view in several months.

Though visitors won't be able to see the new little one just yet, they can see Sparky in the Great Cats habitat, as well as Bandar, Damai's male offspring born in August 2013, the zoo said.

Sumatran tigers are an endangered species, so the success of breeding programs like the one at the Smithsonian is promising news for zoologists.

"This is such an exciting time for us," said Craig Saffoe, curator of the Great Cats habitat at the National Zoo. "Not only because we have a cub who appears to be doing great, but also because this animal's genes are extremely valuable to the North American population." 

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