Photo gallery: Banham Zoo tiger cubs at six-months-old
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013
These fluffy bundles left keepers and visitors in awe when they born, after much anticipation, at Banham Zoo in June this year.
Fast forward six months and young Amur tiger cubs Yeva and Xenia have grown into a mischievous pair, weighing around 25kg each and devouring up to three-quarters of a kilo of meat each day.
Not to be left out of the festive celebrations, the pair have been treated to Christmas presents during their first season – wrapped boxes containing food and toys. Head keeper Tracey Moore said they had thrived at the zoo and were a delight for the keepers to care for.
'They're coming out a lot more now and Xenia is a bit more dominant then Yeva – she always comes over to see what you're doing and what's going on,' she added.
'They both come over now for the public feeds and they're getting a bit more mischievous now, like toddlers. They try to take food from mum's mouth and hit dad's face and they're testing the boundaries.
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'We have a climbing frame in the enclosure and mum and dad used to be able to climb to the top to escape but now the cubs can make it up there so there's no respite.
'They've enjoyed tearing their Christmas boxes open and seeing what's inside.'
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The two cubs, who were born on June 14, will remain at the zoo for around another year to 18 months after which they will be mature enough to be transferred to others within the European Breeding Programme.
Currently, they can be seen each day scampering and tumbling in their enclosure, and a daily public feed also includes an educational talk. 'They're a real draw for the visitors because even though they're getting big, they still look like cubs and they're always up to something for people to watch them doing,' Ms Moore added.
'I think people come and see the animals and then they see the information about them and it's very different to if you're reading about them. They learn about what they can do to support them, which is the big thing.'
The cubs' father, Kuzma, who was born at Banham in 2008, was recently ranked as one of the most important males within the European captive breeding programme. His genes are poorly represented within the captive population and breeding him was considered a high priority.
His mate Sveta, five, arrived from Lisbon Zoo in 2011 and the cub's birth was their first successful litter together.
Amur tigers are listed as an endangered species by International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Recent information indicates there are fewer than 400 animals left in the wild and that captive breeding could be a critical factor in the future survival of the world's largest cat.
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