Duval County

‘Every birth is precious:’ Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens officially debuts 3 new tiger cubs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A big welcome to the Jacksonville family for Mina, Machli, and Beppy, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ newest three Malayan Tiger cubs.

The zoo unveiled the 16-week-old tiger cubs for the very first time Thursday morning, after months of around-the-clock care from Senior Animal Care Specialist Tirzah Nichols.

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“They’re just so small when they’re born. And then as they get older, their personalities start to really bloom,” Nichols told Action News Jax with a big smile. “Then you get to really see how different they look physically, but also how different their personalities are.”

The birth of these three new tiger cubs not only provide a bonding experience for the trainers who take care of them, or an attraction for zoogoers, but also an opportunity to rebuild a population once abundant, now endangered.

“All the different subspecies of tigers, only about 5,500 of them left in the world. The Malayan Tiger is a very small number, 150 to 250 Tigers,” explained Jacksonville Zoo President and CEO Jeff Ettling. “So from a population sustainability standpoint, every birth is precious.”

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The birth and caretaking of the three cubs, Nichols said, is also part of a comprehensive, team effort, which focuses on providing the cubs and their mother Cinta with as close to an authentic life in the wild as possible. Meanwhile, it eliminates the environmental dangers like poaching and deforestation that has left this species on the edge of extinction in the wild.

“One of the main things with since having these cubs is letting her, letting Cinta make the decisions of when to take the next steps with the cubs,” Nichols said. “As they get older and a little bit stronger, Sinta would kind of let us know by observing her behavior, OK, she’s ready for a little more space with the cubs.”

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