First birthday party planned for Sacramento Zoo tiger

CJ, the youngest Sumatran tiger at the Sacramento Zoo, will celebrate his first birthday by tearing into a birthday cake on Saturday.

His birthday party takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with the tiger scheduled to enjoy his birthday cake at noon.

The “birthday cake” will be constructed of boxes decorated using tiger-safe paints and carry the scent of aromatic spices.

“The spices are your regular kitchen variety and are to a tiger what catnip is to a regular housecat,” said Tonja Candelaria, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

CJ, short for Castro Jr., was born to mother Bahagia and father Castro on March 3, 2013. Zoo officials said that the cub bonded with his mother right away has thrived ever since.

Sumatran tigers are endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra off the Malaysian peninsula. Fewer than 500 of the smallish tigers are believed to exist in the wild and about 200 live in zoos.

The Sacramento Zoo participates in a survival plan coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The plan includes breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations in captivity and organize zoo efforts to preserve the species in nature.