A female Malayan tiger believed to be pregnant at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society may have experienced a pseudopregnancy, also known as a “false pregnancy.” Berapi, a ten-year-old Malayan tiger who mothered three male cubs at the Zoo in 2011, exhibited the classic symptoms of pregnancy: weight gain despite a decrease in appetite, a lowered activity level, nesting behaviors, and even movement in her stomach, which is not unusual in pseudopregnant cats.
“There are no simple tests to determine tiger pregnancy, so we used our experience,” explained Jan Steele, general curator for the Zoo. “Berapi was showing all the right signs—everything except actual cubs.”
“We were confident in our initial assessment that Berapi was pregnant, but that has proven false,” Steele continued. “We were not willing to anesthetize her to perform an ultrasound, which would have confirmed pregnancy, because of the possible risks involved with anesthesia. Even hormone tests are not 100% accurate in felines, because psuedopregnancy increases their hormone levels.”
Berapi gained weight, but veterinary staff now attribute her weight increase to a curing of her former Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Since Berapi had passed the typical gestation period, Zoo staff contacted Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) leaders within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), who advised immediate x-rays and an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed no presence of tiger cubs, but it did show follicles on her ovaries. Despite that, vet staff said she is fully healthy. Staff will continue to monitor Berapi to see if she will continue into estrus for future potential breeding.