High Hopes for Rare Tiger Birth in Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

There is great anticipation at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem where keepers believe that a pair of Sumatran tigers have successfully mated after a long period of time.

Hannah, the female tiger, was seen mating with Avigdor, her male partner, following an eight-month effort that is part of a major project to preserve the endangered sub-species. At the zoo, the hope is that Hannah will soon prove to be carrying a cub.

"We are almost certain that during their first mating, six weeks ago, Hannah was not impregnated," Shmulik Yafuv, chief zoologist at the zoo, said this week.

"Mating between the two was not successful, but later they mated again, and it looks better," he added hopefully.

The tiger in question originates in the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Excessive logging on the island has driven tigers away from their natural habitat there, a phenomenon that has been exacerbated by unsupervised hunting. There are currently an estimated 400-500 Sumatran tigers in the wild and 150-250 in captivity.

The zoo in Jerusalem is part of an international program aimed at preventing the extinction of a variety of species, and as part of this effort, the Sumatran tiger couple was brought there in February.

Hannah was born at the Safari in Ramat Gan two years ago, where she was given the name Otzma. She was renamed when she moved to Jerusalem, following a request by a zoo donor. Avigdor, who is 18 months old, came from a zoo in Germany.

The initial encounters between the two were emotional and short, but utterly loveless. Hannah seemed aggravated and the two tigers attacked each other. Most of their days were spent in separate enclosures.

"Tigers, like all other large predators, are species that live alone in nature," Yaduv explained. "It is not natural for them to be a couple, and therefore bringing them together at the zoo has to be done carefully and slowly."