A Sumatran tiger named Babe helped make the Zoo “grrreat!”
  • 1920s
  • 1930s

Babe, the Zoo’s first tiger, arrived in 1924. Belle Benchley, the Zoo’s secretary at the time but who would later became director, described the Sumatran beauty as friendly and showing “little of the animosity most tigers feel for human beings.” Babe lived at the Zoo for 15 years and wowed Zoo guests with her impressive good looks and gorgeous coat.

She also raised four litters of cubs. Her first litter of two males and a female caused great excitement among the staff, and the cubs were a big hit with visitors. They were described as “fine, fat, aggressive little cats, growing like weeds, afraid of nothing.” When they grew up, they went to zoos in the eastern US, spreading beautiful Babe’s legacy—and news of the San Diego Zoo—nationwide.

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