Rare Sumatran tiger cub makes Christmas arrival at ZSL London Zoo

Newborn Sumatran cub tiger with its mum Gaysha at ZSL London Zoo

Newborn Sumatran cub tiger with its mum Gaysha at ZSL London Zoo - Credit: ZSL London Zoo

A critically endangered Sumatran tiger cub made its way into the world at London Zoo just in time for Christmas.

Ten-year-old mum Gaysha gave birth to the cub at 2.19am on Sunday, December 12.

In footage captured by the Zoo’s hidden ‘cubcam’, Gaysha can be seen cleaning and feeding the rare newborn just hours after the birth. Then the determined youngster takes its first wobbly steps on the soft straw of their behind-the-scenes den.  

Newborn Sumatran tiger cub with mum Gaysha

Newborn Sumatran tiger cub with mum Gaysha - Credit: ZSL London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo tiger keeper Lucy Reed said: “We knew Gaysha was nearing full-term as we’d seen her belly grow rapidly over the previous few weeks, so we made her a special cubbing den in anticipation, filling it with soft straw for added comfort – it was there she chose to give birth.” 

The cub will most likely remain tucked away in the family’s warm cubbing den until its first vaccinations - when vets and zookeepers will also be able to determine the cub’s sex.

One of an original litter of three, the cub’s two siblings sadly did not survive labour. 

Lucy added: “The chunky little cub is doing really well in mum’s excellent care, and definitely takes after dad Asim in terms of size and strength.

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"We’ve seen some key milestones already, with the little one taking its first steps almost immediately and - more recently - opening its eyes, which are always closed for the first few days after birth. 

“At the moment, while we’re still keeping a close eye via cubcam, we’re also taking care not to disturb the family so that they can bond together - we can’t wait to get to know the little one as it grows bigger and begins to explore more of its surroundings.”  

Sumatran tigers are the rarest and smallest subspecies of tiger in the world, with the latest figures suggesting that only 300 remain in the wild. 

The zoo is now asking its members to offer up suggestions for the cub’s name over the coming days, which will then be shortlisted by zookeepers before being voted on by a group of ZSL supporters.  

While mum Gaysha is snuggled up inside with her baby, visitors to the zoo can still see ten-year-old dad Asim hanging out in Tiger Territory - and can also watch exclusive cubcam footage in the exhibit.