Photo Gallery: Banham Zoo Tiger cubs explore enclosure
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013
Two tiger cubs born at Banham Zoo only four weeks ago have startled staff by putting in an earlier than expected first public appearance when mum Sveta decided it was time to vacate the cubbing box where they had lived since being born on the 14th June.
Keepers arrived last Sunday morning to find that overnight, possibly in response to the balmy night time temperatures, Sveta had decided to move the cubs to a gully at the far side of the enclosure.
By pure chance this just happened to be in front of one of the enclosures viewing shelters, giving guests to the zoo the fabulous opportunity to see the cubs properly for the first time.
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The keepers monitored Sveta and the cubs from a discrete distance all day and were delighted to note how relaxed she was, appearing to have taken to the role of motherhood very naturally and seemingly unperturbed by all the fuss.
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Earlier last month Sveta had kept her keepers waiting for several days before giving birth on the 14th June, the whole event captured by the zoo on four CCTV cameras which keepers had discretely installed inside the cubbing den.
Since then keepers have been monitoring the cubs development daily and have been able to share the images with guests via a large monitor screen in one of the viewing shelters.
The new cubs are very important additions to the European captive breeding programme for Amur tigers. The zoo's male, Kuzma, who was born at Banham in 2008, was recently ranked as one of the most important males within the breeding programme. His genes are poorly represented within the captive population so breeding him was considered a high priority. His mate, Sveta, arrived from Lisbon Zoo, Portugal in 2011 and this is their first successful litter together.
Amur Tigers are listed as an endangered species by IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). Recent information indicates that there are less than 400 animals left in the wild; captive breeding could be a critical factor in the future survival of the world's largest cat.