NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Valentine’s Day may have been last month, but love is still in the air at the Nashville Zoo.
Felix, a male Sumatran tiger, recently arrived at the zoo from Greensboro, North Carolina.
He’s being gradually introduced to Francis, a female Sumatran tiger, who has been at the Nashville Zoo since the tiger exhibit opened in 2019.
And yes, the hope is to produce some cubs in the future.
Though they are only allowed to see each other through a fence at this time, there are definite signs that Cupid has struck!
“Mostly the fact that they call to each other a lot,” explained Danielle Berthold, Nashville Zoo Carnivore Keeper. “They definitely want to be close to each other. Tigers make what’s called a ‘Tuffy noise.’ It’s kind of like a purring. They don’t have the ability to purr. It’s their happy noise. So, there’s a lot of that between the two of them but they have kind of been really focusing on each other. They love each other such that when we swap areas, like last night when Francis came in, there was a big pile of shavings that Felix had been on and she just laid in it. So they just very much enjoy each other’s presence, I guess.”
The process of putting them together for mating is a delicate one.
“They’re not physically together at any point yet,” said Berthold. “It’s a very slow process with tigers. They are very territorial in the wild. And they like their space and we like to know when they should go in together or not. So, something we are currently watching mostly watching for Francis is signals, to some extent, and when we feel like it’s the right moment, they’ll be together. But they’ll only be together inside the building for about 30 minutes and then will be separated. And then they’ll spend the rest of the day separated. And then the next day they’ll go back together. It’s usually only three to five days once a month so they’ll never ever be out on exhibit together.”
Since they are kept separate for now, if you go to view them at the zoo you will likely see Felix in the morning and Francis in the afternoon.