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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - Sumatran Tiger - 2002-01-28

Broadcast: January 15, 2002

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. recently showed a new baby Sumatran tiger to the public for the first time. Thousands of people are waiting in long lines to see the rare animal. He was born at the zoo September Eighteenth. Only about one-hundred-seventy Sumatran tigers live in zoos.The baby tiger is called Berani.

The name means “brave” in the Bahasa Indonesian language. Sumatran tigers come from the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia. Like all tigers in the world, they are threatened with dying out. Fewer than five-hundred of these animals now survive in the wild in Sumatra.

Zoo scientists examined Berani for the first time two weeks after his birth. At that time, he weighed less than three kilograms. He now weighs more than ten kilograms. Zoo director Lucy Spelman says information gained from studying Berani will help zoo experts protect other Sumatran tigers.


The birth of Berani resulted from a scientifically managed reproduction plan for Sumatran tigers. The National Zoo cooperates with the American Zoo Association in this effort. Other agencies involved are the Save the Tiger Fund and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Berani’s mother is Soyono. His father is Rokan. The birth marked the second time in recent years that the National Zoo has welcomed Sumatran tigers. Rokan became the father of three Sumatran baby tigers in Nineteen-Ninety-Nine.

For many years, experts believed Sumatran tigers belonged to a larger scientific grouping of tigers. However, a Nineteen-Ninety-Eight study of tiger cells questioned this belief. Researchers from several areas of science made the study. The magazine “Animal Conservation” published their results.

The study reported that Sumatran tigers are unlike other tigers. Blood taken from Sumatrans showed three genetic markers not found in other kinds of tigers. Zoos throughout the world since then have increased their efforts to produce more Sumatran tigers.


Sumatrans are the smallest surviving tigers in the world. If Berani is average, he will measure about two meters when fully grown. He will weigh about one-hundred-twenty kilograms. The Sumatran has the darkest skin of any tiger. It has many black marks on its dark orange body.

Two other kinds of tigers once lived in Indonesia. However, these Javan and Balinese tigers have disappeared from Earth. In Nineteen-Ninety-Four, Indonesia developed a reproduction program aimed at saving Sumatran tigers in the wild.

Humans threaten the existence of these animals, as they threaten all tigers. Increases in human population and agriculture have robbed the tigers of places where they once lived.