Critically Endangered Tiger Cub Celebrates First Birthday

We are celebrating the first birthday Lestari, the Sumatran tiger cub – a great milestone as she didn’t have the easiest start at life.

Lestari, whose birth on 4 July 2023 was captured on CCTV, was the first Sumatran tiger cub to be born at the Park in our history, but when she was four weeks old, keepers noticed that there was a weakness in her front limbs, which was affecting her development.

The keepers and veterinary team decided to step in and set up a physiotherapy programme which was carried out over three weeks, involving exercises and using walking aids to help strengthen her legs.

Their hard work paid off and Lestari responded extremely well to the treatment and a year later, can run, leap and bound completely normally.

To celebrate the one-year milestone, keepers made a selection of treats for Lestari, including a cake made from frozen goat’s milk and chunks of meat and some shaped, blood ice blocks.

They also provided her with some of her favourite toys, including some huge boomer balls, one of which she used as a bath toy, pushing it into one of the pools to splash around with – a joyous moment to watch by keepers, who were uncertain they would get to see her playing like this.

Head Keeper of Carnivores, Chris Hodgkins, said, “When Lestari arrived a year ago, the keepers and I were over the moon. However, we started to notice something wasn’t quite right with her legs and so our vet team had to step in, to carry out daily physiotherapy to aid her walking.

“The physio was a success and Lestari has gone from strength to strength since. This has created a very special bond with us all and to see her progress and become stronger every day, has been very rewarding.”

He continued, “Lestari is very active and mischievous - she will always explore any enrichment we provide. Although she seems very independent at times, she still looks for her mum, Dourga, and never wanders far from her side. The keepers worked really hard to ensure a very easy introduction with her dad, Nakal, who she has also bonded extremely well with. We often see her playing with Nakal and giving him a good run around! It’s amazing to see that our efforts a year ago have paid off and we’re all very proud of the young tiger Lestari has become.

Sumatran tigers are classed as ‘critically endangered’, which means there is an extremely high likelihood they could face extinction in the near future. There are estimated to be fewer than 400 individuals left in the wild and numbers seem to be decreasing.

All tigers in the wild face an uncertain future, due to conflict with humans, habitat loss and poaching for the illegal trade in tiger body parts.

This is one of the reasons why every effort was made to ensure Lestari’s survival and why her birth was a milestone moment for us and our conservation efforts.

Lestari can be seen with her parents, Dourga and Nakal, in Tiger Tropics, located in the walk-through area of the Park.