NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville Zoo has welcomed Felix the Sumatran tiger in hopes that one day soon, they will also be welcoming tiger cubs.

Felix and Frances form one of the zoo’s newest duos. While they make a cute couple, they actually don’t spend that much time together.

One of the zoo’s carnivore keepers, MJ Foletta, tells News 2, “They are solitary. So, lions are the only cats that like to be social. [Tigers] only contact in breeding.”

Felix, the male, and Frances, the female, don’t stay on the exhibit together. Foletta says, “They alternate every other day. One out here, and one out back. Both areas have giant pools.”

What do tigers eat?

  • Carnivores with a meat strict diet of about 10lbs per day
  • Nashville Zoo gives Felix and Frances rabbit, guinea pig, quail, fish (Felix is not a fan of fish)
  • Eat bones to help strengthen their jaw structure
  • Fast once or twice a week to filter meat

Felix was introduced to Frances earlier this year. According to Foletta, they have been tracking how the pair interacts from the very first day.

“We are a part of this study, and send a fecal sample from Frances, and monitor her hormone levels to see how she reacts to Felix,” Foletta continues, “With female cycling, we can see her rub up against the mesh and start rolling to present herself to the male, and he’ll pick up on that.”

Once the keepers see signs the two are ready to breed, they are brought into a building together for about 30 minutes, but they will then be separated for safety reasons.

This pair has been genetically matched through the Species Survival Plan or SSP.

Foletta says, “This species is critically endangered, so having cubs for them is super important to the conservation of their species.”

The loss of their habitat to palm oil plantations has resulted in only about 400 of these majestic creatures left in the wild and only 200 in captivity worldwide.

What are the breeding habits of tigers?

  • Sumatran tigers breed year round
  • Females will release pheromones and vocalize to let males know they are ready
  • Gestation lasts three to four months, birth one to three cubs
  • Females raise their tiger cubs
  • Cubs leave mothers after about two years

While zoos like Nashville work to breed the animals, Foletta says you can help save the species too.

“The best thing you can do for them is to go on Cheyenne Mountain Zoo App and scan products in the supermarket to see if it has palm oil,” she said. “The biggest threat for these guys is loss of habitat due to palm oil products. Make sure you are using palm oil-free products.”

Because Felix and Frances don’t stay on the exhibit together, Foletta has some tips on how you can tell them apart the next time you visit the Tiger Crossroads.

“With Felix, he is much [more orange] like a Cheeto puff, compared to Frances the female. She is slimmer in the face, but Felix has a popping man,” Foletta adds, “Frances has ‘H’s’ on the sides of her face.”

Felix (left) Frances (right)

The Tiger Crossroads Exhibit received the Exhibit Design Award in 2020 from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which is one of the highest honors.