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Endangered Sumatran tiger cubs born at OKC Zoo as conservation efforts continue

Gillian Lang
Lola, an endangered Sumatran Tiger, gave birth too three cubs at the OKC Zoo on Saturday.
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OKLAHOMA CITY-The Oklahoma City Zoo welcomed three rare Sumatran tiger cubs on Saturday, and zoo officials say the three “appear to be doing well and are bonding.”

Sumatran tigers are among the world’s most critically-endangered animals. Less than 500 are estimated to live in the wild in Indonesia, so the healthy birth of the cubs is a victory for conservation efforts, said Candice Rennels, spokesperson for the OKC Zoo.

“Sumatran Tigers are extremely endangered, so this is very exciting,” she said. “Through the Species Survival Plan and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we now have a litter. The mother, Lola, was born here at the zoo in 2011 and was in the first litter ever born at our zoo. Now she’s a mama.”

The Oklahoma City Zoo’s 6-year-old female Sumatran Tiger, Lola, gave birth on Saturday, July 8, but the mother and cubs will be out of public view for several months to ensure that the cubs are healthy and bonding.

“We’re incredibly excited with this news and are ensuring Lola and her cubs have the time and space they need for nursing and bonding,” said Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino, senior director of veterinary care, in a press release. “We won’t be able to examine the cubs or determine their sex for several more days and but look forward to sharing photos with the public once we have them.”  

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered due to habitat loss- driven primarily by the cultivation of palm oil plantations and by illegal hunting. 

PROTECTING WILDLIFE WORLDWIDE

The breeding of the endangered Sumatran tiger isn’t the only conservation partnership or efforts the OKC Zoo is involved in. The Zoo works with numerous organizations locally and globally to continue efforts to preserve natural lands and protect wildlife.

On July 22, the Oklahoma City Zoo’s chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) will participate in a National Bowling for Rhino’s bowl-a-thon at Heritage Lanes in Oklahoma City. The 23-year-old fundraiser is designed to help save wild rhinos and their habitats while also raising awareness for rhino conservation. The funds raised secure habitats for rhinos and other wildlife in Asia and Africa, where only five species of rhinos remain. All five species are endangered due to poaching and habitat loss.

Since 1990, more than $6 million has been raised with all proceeds directly benefiting rhino conservation. The OKC Zoo’s AAZK chapter has successfully raised $302,604.00 through its fundraising efforts since 1990, making it one of the largest contributors to Bowling for Rhinos. The OKC Zoo currently has three Indian rhinos in its care who are incredibly popular among guests.

To register for Bowling for Rhinos, visit www.eventbrite.com or call (405) 424-3344. Teams and individuals are welcome to participate. If you do not wish to bowl but would like to sponsor a team or make donations, visitwww.eventbrite.com or mail a check to “AAZK Bowling for Rhinos,” 2101 NE 50th, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73111. For more information about Bowling for Rhinos and rhino conservation, please visit www.aazkbfr.org.    

The OKC Zoo is also heavily involved in other global conservation efforts by providing significant funding to organizations dedicated to habitat and wildlife protection.

According to Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science at the OKC Zoo, zoo officials are fighting against the decimation of rainforests from the palm oil industry, counting Oklahoma bat species and working to save Ecuador’s biodiversity.

“We have both local and global efforts here,” said Snyder. “What we do here has a global impact.”

KEEPING IT LOCAL

Besides saving elephants and protecting rainforests, The Oklahoma City Zoo also works closely with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation on projects close to home.

Along with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), the zoo participates annually in the Winter Bird Survey, which counts birds in ODWC land areas to help study the health of the bird population and counts the lesser prairie chicken populations in the spring. In addition, zoo officials also help with the ODWC annual bat survey.

The Zoo also provides money for the Nature Conservancy Oklahoma Chapter’s OKC Zoo Science Research Fund, which sponsors studies on the preserves that the Nature Conservancy has in Oklahoma.

GLOBAL WORK

Through large project grants, The Oklahoma City Zoo is also making an impact on a global level. In 2016, the Oklahoma City Zoo began a partnership with Rainforest Trust, a conservation organization whose mission is to work with local partners to purchase and protect threatened tropical forests. Using funds donated by OKC Zoo guests through the Zoo’s grassroots program, Round Up for Conservation, Rainforest Trust purchased 13,000 acres of rainforest in central Sumatra, home to some of the Zoo’s most popular and endangered species, including Asian elephants, Sumatran orangutans and Sumatran tigers.

“We have six long-term, multi-year Legacy Conservation Partners and our commitment is for three years or more,” said Snyder. “We provide significant financial contributions and assistance to these organizations.
Other Legacy Partners include the Northern Rangeland Trust in Kenya, which helps local livestock owners to manage grazing land in order to conserve land and water resources.

“The organization helps the locals manage the land and rotate grazing so both the livestock and the wildlife can co-exist,” said Snyder. “It also has a small grants program for women to start bead businesses to make jewelry. We sell those in our gift shop.”

The Turtle Survival Alliance also receives conservation and financial support from the Oklahoma City Zoo. Active in several countries, the organization helps protect more than 70 species of turtles worldwide.

The Jatun Sacha Foundation in Ecuador is another Legacy Conservation Partner dedicated to managing five different reserves in Ecuador to protect natural resources and wildlife. The organization recently introduced a breeding center for frogs.

The OKC Zoo also supports the Diane Fossey Gorilla Foundation in Rwanda, one of the most in-depth and successful conservation efforts in the world. The foundation, which turns 50 this year, tracks the mountain gorillas to help protect them from poachers. In fact, thanks to the foundation, the population of big apes in Rwanda is the only big ape population that is increasing.

“It’s a huge conservation success story,” said Snyder.

The Legacy Conservation Partner program is supported in part by the Oklahoma Zoological Society and through the Round Up Fund at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

With each purchase you make at the Zoo, guests can choose to Round Up for Conservation by "rounding up" the amount of a purchase to the next dollar. The donation goes toward one of the Zoo’s conservation initiatives, and since the inception of the program in 2011, guests have contributed more than $125,000 to the Zoo’s conservation efforts.

“One of the efforts supported by Round Up is the Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe,” Snyder said. “The OKC Zoo has one of the largest packs of African Painted Dogs in the U.S., and this year, we will be able to send two zoo staff member to work in the field.”

For more information, visit www.okczoo.com.

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Heide Brandes

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