Banham Zoo tiger cubs who could help save their species

They have no idea just how special they are - but two tiger cubs that have been born at a Norfolk zoo could grow up to play a vital role in saving their breed from extinction.

The pair are amur tigers and it is thought only about 500 are left in the wild, putting the species on the endangered list.

The brother and sister - who are yet to be named - have been delighting visitors at Banham Zoo after being seen outside in their enclosure for the first time since being born at the beginning of October.

Their mother Mishka came to Banham from Woburn earlier this year to mate with Kuzma, a male Amur, as part of the European breeding programme which is intended to protect endangered animals from extinction.

The Banham tiger cubs with their mother Credit: PA

The pair had been identified as genetically compatible mates for each other by researchers.

Once fully grown, the cubs themselves will become part of the programme, with the target of replenishing numbers of the species.

Staff at the zoo are thrilled at the birth of the cubs, and said they appeared to be developing well.

Oliver Lewis-McDonald from the zoo said: "The cubs are taking everything in their stride and they're both confidently moving between all three of their inside dens.

The Banham Zoo tiger cubs were born at the start of October

"When they are in the main den they are not fazed by the visitors and have been delighting everyone who has managed to see them so far".

He added: "It will be very interesting to see how they differ the older they become. At this stage there is little to differentiate their personalities, but the female is very slightly more confident. She is definitely the louder of the two!"

Did you know? Amur tiger facts

  • Amur tigers are the largest big cat in the world with some males weighing 360kg

  • They are usually found in Russian forests and are normally solitary

  • Amurs have a long coat of fur and a large ruff around the jaw

  • About 500 are left in the wild so they are an endangered species

They also recently met their father for the first time. The introduction was done at Kuzma's pace, and he was given the opportunity to see the cubs through mesh from day one, so he knew they were there, the zoo explained.

At the moment Kuzma is not interacting with his new son and daughter but this is expected to change as they become more mobile with both youngsters expected to start following their father about, said Mr Lewis-McDonald.