Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 6 July 2006 17:11 UK

New arrivals earn their stripes

Sumatran tiger cubs
The public has been asked to suggest exotic names for the cubs

Two rare tiger cubs have been delighting the public at a Devon zoo.

The Sumatran cubs, who were born eight weeks ago, are the first tiger cubs born at Paignton Zoo for 20 years.

The cubs are now in the public viewing enclosure with mother Banda. Father Tenang is being kept separate as adult males take no part in rearing.

A Paignton Zoo spokesman said: "We have no reason to believe Tenang would take against the cubs, but they are too precious to risk."

The species is classified as endangered, with only about 350 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

Exotic names

In 1978, the wild population was about 1,000. That figure dropped to about 500 by 1992.

Now the remaining wild Sumatran tigers live primarily in national parks. There are between 200 and 300 in zoos around the world.

Neil Bemment, the zoo's curator of mammals, said tigers typically show an equal sex ratio at birth and their initial observations indicate there is one male and one female, although they have not been properly examined yet.

Cubs in the wild are dependant on their mother for about 18 months, with female tigers reaching sexual maturity at about three-years-old and males at about four.

The zoo hopes the tigers will be a big hit with summer visitors and has asked for the public's help in giving the new arrivals exotic names.

English names which are submitted will be translated into the local Sumatran tongue, but the zoo said footballers and pop stars' names would not be considered.

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See the "purr-fect" tiger cubs playing


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