Leanne and cub soon after birth.
Leanne was fully conscious during her ultrasounds—perhaps the first tiger in the world to be trained to do so. It took a lot of goat's milk, which she loves, to convince her.
Larry, the father, will not have a role in raising the child. This arrangement is the same in the wild, where the solitary Sumatran tigers come together only to mate.
Update, 3/22/13: The Zoo has just announced that the tiger cub is a girl—and released a new batch of photos. Check the gallery above for shots of tiger cub and mother. Zookeepers have just conducted a less than five-minute medical exam of the growing cub, during which they were able to determine her gender.
“Since the exam, we’ve been able to conduct brief socialization sessions with the cub to get her used to her keepers,” said Corinne MacDonald, Curator of Carnivores and Primates at the San Francisco Zoo. Want to get a peek in person? Viewing at the Lion House will now be held on weekends from 1-3 PM. What about the name? Well, you can bid on the right to bestow one on the cub at the Zoo's annual fundraiser on May 11th.
Original post, 3/12/13: Exactly one month ago, the San Francisco Zoo celebrated the birth of a rare Sumatran tiger cub to Leanne, a female tiger. These animals are critically endangered—with less than 400 wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and only 100 in zoos around the world—making this birth very significant, says Corinne MacDonald, the zoo’s Curator of Carnivores and Primates. A few months ago, Leanne made news of her own by becoming the first tiger to be trained to stay awake, and un-anesthetized, during her ultrasound. But now, all eyes are on her relationship with her baby. So how are mother and child doing?
"All signs are positive," says MacDonald. The zoo remotely monitors the mother and child pair with a system of cameras, designed to minimize human interaction so that the animals can strengthen their bond. So far, it seems to be working. "We're giving Leanne some time now outside to stretch her legs, but she always comes back in to check with the cub. And now they’re even playing. The cub will paw at the mother's face and Leanne with play back."
The cub is also nursing just fine. If all goes well, it will reach physical maturity in three to five years, when it will grow to between 180 and 300 pounds. Leanne, meanwhile, also developed a taste for the Meyenberg goat’s milk that the trainers used to keep her happy during the ultrasound. (They buy it at a regular grocery store down the block.)
The cub is still being called Junior or Cub because its gender has not yet been determined. "The pictures from the cameras aren't that clear," says MacDonald, laughing. They won’t find out until the cub is eight weeks old (one month from now), when it gets its first full medical exam and round of its vaccines. But even then, the name is up for grabs. MacDonald says, "We have a lot of generous donors whom we allow to name some of the animals. Some others are named after sports figures, and some the keepers name."
Public viewing hasn’t been scheduled yet but is expected to begin sometime within the next few months.