Malyshka, meet Mischa

CELIA WIGG Her name is Malyshka which means little girl and she has travelled from Russia with love. For the two-year-old rare Amur (Siberian) tiger has just arrived at Banham Zoo to join its breeding male Mischa, after an extensive world-wide search to find him a suitable unrelated mate.

CELIA WIGG

Her name is Malyshka which means little girl and she has travelled from Russia with love.

For the two-year-old rare Amur (Siberian) tiger has just arrived at Banham Zoo to join its breeding male Mischa, after an extensive world-wide search to find him a suitable unrelated mate.

Born at Chelyabinsk Zoo, in Russia, the tigress spent the first few days settling in to her new accommodation, and has now been given access to the outside enclosure.

Mischa, 9, has already fathered two cubs with his previous mate who was struck down with cancer. Their two cubs were being hand-reared and also sadly died.

Mike Woolham, Banham Zoo's animal manager, said Malyshka's arrival marked a new beginning and, if all went well, the pair could produce offspring next year.

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"We wanted to make sure of the best possible match for Mischa, so we waited, and Malyshka was about six months old when we first heard about her. The problem was she was in Russia and red tape held things up," he explained.

"The tigers can see eachother and they will be together pretty soon. With the recent birth of our extremely rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs, it's all happening in our cat department at the moment!"

There are believed to be no more than 250 Amur tigers left in the wild, poachers having hunted them to the verge of extinction for their skins, and supposed magical properties of their bones and whiskers.