9 April 2013
By NICOLE FUGE
KAITLYN knocks back a 100ml carton of milk - a fitting distraction from the ultrasound probe rubbing her swelling belly.
The five-year-old Sumatran tiger is pregnant with her first litter and will make Australia Zoo history when she gives birth in June.
Her cubs will be the first to be born at the Beerwah zoo.
Australia Zoo head tiger supervisor Giles Clark said tigers had a short gestation period, about 110 days.
"An average litter is about three or four, but they can have one or as many as six or seven," he said.
Mr Clark said Sumatran tigers, from Indonesia, were the last remaining island tigers, with about 500 left in the wild.
"There are lots of pressures pushing not only tigers, but other species of wildlife, to the brink of extinction in Sumatra," he said.
"We have habitat destruction, but they are also being poached ... their bones and body parts and skins are still in demand for Chinese and Asian medicines."
About 18 months ago, Kaitlyn was paired with 18-year-old male Ramalon as part of a co-ordinated captive breeding program.
"We had to play matchmaker a little bit," Mr Clark said.
"It was a little bit of a shock to his system."
Mr Clark said Kaitlyn was genetically valuable because her bloodline was not represented anywhere else in captivity, except with her brother and sister who are also at Australia Zoo.