Target: Rebecca Blanchard, Press Officer at the London Zoo
Goal: Ensure animals at the London Zoo are monitored fully when their health and life depends on it.
Recently the London Zoo had successfully mated their Sumatran Tiger, Melati. Melati gave birth to a lovely little cub whose sex had not yet been determined. The cub and Melati were able to form a bond for two weeks; shortly after its two week birthday, the cub was found dead on the edge of the tigers’ pool. The cause of death was most likely drowning, according to the zoo keepers. They are not able to fully understand what happened because the main part of the enclosure does not have cameras, nor did the zoo have anyone watching the tigers. If the zoo keepers were more diligent about observing early behavior and mom-cub interaction, this devastating incident would not have happened.
The London Zoo is currently participating in breeding programs for 130 species. The tiger cub was the first tiger to be born at the zoo in 17 years. The zoo has its animals’ best interests at heart; however, the zoo must be more diligent about monitoring breeding programs for months after the babies are born. The zoo keepers are aware that Melati is a nervous tiger, and to change routine may have caused her to put the cub in danger. This is why the keepers allowed Melati full access to her enclosure; the keepers simply wanted to let the mom bond with her cub, and did not think she would take it out of the den. The den is equipped with cameras that were used to stream the birth of the cub. The zoo did not put cameras in the main enclosure, so little is known about how the cub ended up in the pool.
The birth of the tiger was an amazing opportunity for the sub-species. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered, numbering less than 679 individuals in the wild. Melati’s cub would have been a bright beacon of hope for the sub-species if it had survived. In the future the zoo must monitor newborn interaction, for critically endangered and least concern-status animals alike. Encourage the zoo to have keepers on watch over newborn animal enclosures for the first several months, and to equip the full enclosure with cameras. Had there been more involvement from the keepers, Melati’s cub might still be alive.
Dear Rebecca Blanchard, London Zoo’s Press Officer,
The London Zoo recently had its first tiger birth in 17 years. I am saddened to hear that Melati’s cub was found dead on the side of the pool in the tigers’ enclosure. I understand that the zoo keepers are devastated; this incident was an accident, but it could have been prevented with more diligent supervision.
The den that Melati gave birth in is equipped with cameras that allowed zookeepers to watch the event. These cameras are a crucial asset to the enclosure of a tiger mom and her cub, allowing zookeepers to monitor interactions and ensure that the cub is acting appropriately. Because Melati is a nervous tiger, and is easily made uncomfortable by changes, the zoo did not alter her enclosure. This allowed for full access, including access to the swimming pool. The zookeepers did not expect Melati to take the cub out of the den; however, she did, and her and the cub’s actions could have been monitored had there been surveillance in the main enclosure.
The loss of Melati’s cub is heart-wrenching. Sumatran tigers are critically endangered; the sub-species needs all of the help it can get. Your operation is obviously an advocate for maintaining endangered species and helping them thrive again. I urge you to place cameras throughout an enclosure when there is a newborn living in it. Please make sure that there is always a zookeeper monitoring the cameras, especially when the subject is an endangered species. Never allow this tragedy to happen again.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Steve Wilson via Flickr