Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 09:28 UK

Zoo's rare tiger cubs go on show

The Sumatran tiger cubs faced the public nine weeks after they were born

Four rare tiger cubs have made their public debut at a Devon zoo.

The Sumatran cubs were born to mother Banda and father Tenang nine weeks ago at Paignton Zoo.

Until now, they have been cared for by their mother out of view, only visible to the public on the internet from cameras set up in their den.

The two males and two females, who are still to be named, are part of a Europe-wide captive breeding programme aimed at saving the endangered species.

Phil Knowling, from the zoo, said mother Banda was doing very well.

We are seeing a lot of happy faces
Izzy Warren, zoo spokeswoman

He said: "Keeping track of all four cubs is a big job, she gets two in order and then the other two wander off.

"While she rounds them up, the first two go off exploring.

"The cubs can make quite a noise for such tiny things."

Mr Knowling said the cubs still sleep a lot during the day, but they will become more active over the coming weeks.

He said: "It is exciting, but if people can keep quiet when they are at the tiger enclosure then they are more likely to see the cubs."

The cubs, who have been micro-chipped and vaccinated for their first public venture, will stay with their mother until they are 18 months old, when they will be moved to other zoos as part of the captive breeding programme.

Zoo spokeswoman, Izzy Warren, said: "We are seeing a lot of happy faces as people go home at the end of the day.

"Lots of people are coming especially to see the cubs, then there are people for whom a sight of baby tigers is a real unexpected bonus."

Paignton Zoo is a member of the European endangered species programme for Sumatran tigers, working alongside other zoos in Europe to protect the species from extinction.

Sumatran Tigers have been endangered by loss of habitat and poaching.

It is estimated that there are now less than 400 in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

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