The survival of endangered felids is becoming increasingly dependent on the successful management and breeding of reserve populations in captivity. While most felid species are reported to be solitary in the wild, increasing evidence suggests that some big cats have greater social plasticity than is currently acknowledged. This social plasticity allows felids to be sometimes socially housed in environments such as zoos and rescue centers. While the effects of such shared enclosures remain in question, many reports provide evidence of several welfare benefits of maintaining these large carnivores in pairs or even groups. Since 2019, Le Parc des Félins has housed a breeding pair of Malaysian tigers (Panthera tigris jacksoni) alongside their offspring. The purpose of this study was to quantify the social affiliation between the male tiger and his cubs and to investigate the female’s tolerance toward him. The data were collected using video recordings in the outdoor enclosure when social interactions were observed. The data were coded and categorized in the open-source software BORIS, from which behavioral activity budgets were calculated. Data were analyzed using the chi-squared test for association to determine differences in affiliative frequency, with directed and undirected sociograms created to visualize individual relationships. Overall, the male regularly engaged in affiliative behaviors with the cubs, with no significant difference found in the frequency of interactions with them compared to the female. No physical aggression was directed by the male toward the cubs. Although the female maintained a stronger bond with the cubs compared to the male, he displayed a greater range of affiliative behaviors toward them than male tigers are thought to exhibit. Both adults showed a high degree of tolerance toward their conspecifics, suggesting that maintaining breeding pairs with their offspring is a viable management strategy in zoological collections. This study could therefore improve husbandry and conservation practices by developing our understanding of felid sociality and the potential welfare benefits of social housing, allowing for evidence-based captive management decisions.



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School of Biological and Marine Sciences