Crowds gathered at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on Friday to attend a joint birthday bash. However, this was no ordinary party: The honorees were tigers Dumai and Berani, who are both turning 1 this week.
"Watching the tigers grow is really cool, " said Robin Gomez-Lutze of Tacoma, who was visiting the zoo with her son Lucas. "They grow so fast!"
"Foster brothers" Berani and Dumai have been living together for the past year. Dumai is a Sumatran tiger born on Aug. 22, 2012, at Point Defiance Zoo to mother Jaya and father Malosi. Berani is a Malayan tiger who was born at The Tulsa Zoo on Aug. 26, 2012, and later transported to Tacoma.
The two single-birth male cubs were paired together so they could grow and learn tiger behavior from each other. In the past year, they have become favorites of zoo visitors.
"There are only about 300 Sumatran tigers and about 500 Malayan tigers left in the wild," zoo spokeswoman Kris Sherman said. "We're very lucky to have six tigers in Tacoma."
As part of their birthday celebration, the tiger brothers were treated Friday to a special "meatsicle" cake made of frozen blood, milk and pumpkin spice. A second cake is planned for Saturday. The brothers will also play in the water and be admired by eager children vying to sneak a peak through the exhibit's glass perimeter.
Visitors to the zoo this weekend can take part in other celebration activities, including dressing up as zookeepers, signing a giant birthday card, eating tiger-striped "cub-cakes" courtesy of QFC, and interacting with the tigers' keepers.
Steven Ok has been the tigers' keeper since the cubs arrived at the zoo last year. "Every tiger has a very unique personality," he said. Some are loveable and others are very feisty. Its fun to see them interact.
During the time of celebration, the zoo also reminds people of the critical state of tigers. Only 76 Sumatran tigers and about 55 Malayan tigers are found in North American zoos. As part of the birthday celebration, the zoo will collect donations in the Race to Save Tigers.
"Its not a race that people have to run or walk, but rather a race to raise money to save tigers, Ok explained. We do what we need to do to help save these guys.
In 2012, the zoo was able to raise $5,000 from public donations. That was later matched by Zoo Society and Conservation Committee to total $10,000. All money collected was used for anti-poaching, education, and other efforts to save tigers in Sumatra and Southeast Asia. The fundraiser will continue this year.
Learn more about the tigers birthday party and how to support the Race to Save Tigers at http://tinyurl.com/TigersTurn1.