Two tiger cubs, one licking the other's mouth as it sits on a baby's boppy pillow

Tiger, Tiger

baby tiger cubs being bottle fed

What could be cuter than a roly-poly, striped tiger cub? TWO roly-poly, striped tiger cubs, of course!

Keepers at the Safari Park's Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center in Nairobi Village are knee-deep in adorableness, courtesy of their two newest charges: a Bengal tiger cub and a Sumatran tiger cub. And even though the boys are not related, they are as close as brothers, playing, eating, and even napping together! They’re having a great time now, but both cubs faced some trouble early in life.

tiger cub on back

A rough start

In August, 2017, someone tried to smuggle the Bengal cub into the US from Mexico. That is against the law, so when border officers found the cub in the car, they took it. But it was so very young, it needed milk from a bottle and a way to stay warm, so they brought it to the Safari Park.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, keepers at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. were trying to care for the Sumatran cub, that had been rejected by his mother. They could feed him and keep him warm, but tigers do best growing up with other tigers. After emails and phone calls, the Sumatran tiger cub was made comfortable in a carrier and flown to San Diego. The plan was to introduce the two cubs and let them grow up together.

Tiger cub in box

Nice to meet you!

The cubs were first introduced through a protective gate so they could see and smell each other. They seemed so interested in each other and friendly that keepers soon put the cubs together and they’ve been a best buds ever since! All their rolling, wrestling, pouncing, and playing worked up strong appetites and the cubs ate well and got bigger. At the end of September, the Bengal tiger weighed 15.6 pounds; and his Sumatran tiger companion weighed 19.1 pounds.

Although the Bengal cub started out smaller (because he was a couple of weeks younger), he will eventually outweigh his pal by about 200 pounds (Bengal tigers are bigger than Sumatran tigers).

Tiger cub playing with blanket

Up and growing

As the cubs grew larger, they needed more room to exercise and explore. The keepers fixed up a large room, adding boxes to hide in, things to climb, stuffed toys to tackle, and pillows and blankets to slide and plop on. There’s a lot to do when you’re a growing tiger cub!