A pair of Amur tiger cubs have been born at Longleat – the first in nearly 20 years for the Wiltshire safari park.
Mum Yana and dad Red, both four years old, arrived at Longleat last year as part of a European breeding programme for the endangered species from separate collections in Sweden and Norway.
In preparation for the cubs’ arrival, keepers created a purpose-built den and were delighted when a male and female cub arrived, both weighing in at around a kilogramme each when born.
“Yana and Red are first-time parents and we’re extremely pleased with how well they are reacting to the new arrivals,” said keeper Caleb Hall.
“The cubs are born with their eyes closed and will only drink milk for the first six to eight weeks before being gradually weaned onto a meat diet by mum. The nature of tigers means Yana is a very protective parent and they do best being looked after solely by her with no extra attention from keepers.
“Tigers give birth to very small and vulnerable cubs in comparison to their size and they are solely dependent on mum for the first three months. Even after that, they will closely follow mum and only be mature at three to four years of age,” he added.
The Amur tiger is the largest of the big cats and can weigh up to 300 kg and measure more than three metres in length. Native to the far east of Russia, the tigers had almost died out in the 1930s due to hunting and logging.
Although still under severe threat their status was officially changed from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2007, with wildlife experts believing the current population to be around 540 individuals. There were once nine tiger subspecies, but three – the Bali, Caspian and Javan – became extinct during the 20th century.