Jaya, the Point Defiance Zoo’s Sumatran tiger mom, looked pretty frazzled on Mother’s Day. To be fair, part of it was probably the permanent stripes she wears on her forehead.
The prolific tiger and her latest batch of rambunctious cubs were part of the zoo’s Mother’s Day special Saturday, when human mothers were invited to “bring your cubs to meet ours” and were admitted for half price.
As Jaya and her 7-month-old triplets licked special Mother’s Day “blood Popsicles,” a mob of human parents and offspring crowded the plate glass barrier, many of them shooting videos with their cellphones.
“We celebrate human mothers and animal mothers at the zoo for Mother’s Day,” said zoo spokeswoman Kris Sherman. “We put an emphasis on the animal moms we have because moms and kids can relate to that, and, as you know, anytime people can relate to something personally, they pay more attention it. That way they learn more about the conservation messages we’re trying to communicate.”
The zoo and its parking lots were crammed throughout the day, but Sherman said she doubted that the Mother’s Day special had much to do with the heavy attendance.
“It’s a beautiful spring day Saturday,” she said. “This is pretty normal.”
In addition to Jaya and her cubs, Mother’s Day stars included meerkats, harbor seals and clouded leopards, all of which were given special interactive “feeder puzzles” to make their day more interesting.
Stacy Westfall, a Bremerton mother who came to the zoo with husband Bob and two kids, Greyson, 7, and Lucy-Jo, 2, said she felt a definite connection with Jaya as she watched the cubs frolic and clamber over her.
“I was thinking, she’s there with her cubs, and I’m here with mine,” Westfall said, “and there’s nothing more I’d want on Mother’s Day than to spend time with my family.”
Any tips human moms might pick up from their animal counterparts?
Staff biologist Telena Welsh says there are.
“One of the things I notice about human moms is they don’t tend to take time for themselves,” Welsh said. “Jaya will let us know when she needs time away from the cubs. Sometimes she’ll just lie down and refuse to move.”
The lesson for homo sapiens females?
“Give yourself a break,” she said. “Being a mother is a hard job.”