Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 15:48 UK

Endangered big cats born at zoo

Tiger cub and mother at Howletts - photo by Dave Rolfe
In the wild, cubs spend the first two years with their mother

Three Siberian tiger cubs born at a Kent animal park have been introduced to the public.

The cubs, born in August, have ventured into the open air in their enclosure at Howletts Wild Animal Park.

The two male cubs, Altai and Altay, and one female, Sayan, are named after mountain ranges in Siberia.

Siberian or Amur tigers, from the Amur river area of Russia's far east, are the largest species of cat and are "critically endangered".

The cubs' father Malchek, aged 12, and four-year-old mother Nika, who was originally from Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, will stay together to rear the cubs.

'Solitary animals'

A spokesperson for The Aspinall Foundation, which runs the animal park, said there were more Siberian tigers in captivity than in the wild, where an estimated 500 to 700 remained.

"Tigers are generally solitary animals but the cubs will spend the first two years of their life with their mother," the spokesperson added.

"In the wild they would occasionally meet up with their father and share kills."

The tigers are fed a horse leg, side of ribs or a few rabbits or chickens twice a week, to mimic their feeding habits in the wild.

The cubs were less than 30cm (12in) long when they were born, but males can grow to up to 2.8m (9ft) in length, not including the tail which can be an extra 95cm (3ft).




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