Siberian tiger cubs venture out at Howletts animal park
By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 13/10/2008
Three rare Siberian tiger cubs have been born at a wild animal park in Kent.
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Siberian tigers feature in the top 10 of the world's most endangered creatures and there are now more in zoos than there are left in the wild.
They are the largest of the five remaining tiger species with only an estimated 500-700 wild Siberian or Amur tigers left.
The new additions were born to father Malchek, aged 12 and mother Nike, four, at Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury in Kent.
Almost all wild Siberian tigers are found in the southeast corner of Russia in the Sikhote-Alin mountain range east of the Amur River.
They also ranged in northeastern China and the Korean Peninsula but have now disappeared due to hunting and habitat loss.
Despite a ban on tiger parts a black market trade continues to flourish in China which takes a heavy toll on dwindling populations in the wild.
The two male cubs, Altai and Altay and female, Sayan, have been named after mountain ranges in Siberia,
Siberian tigers can grow to 13 feet in length and weigh 700 lbs.
They hunt mainly boar and deer but have been known to kill bears. They are large and fierce enough to have no known threats other than man.
In the wild, tigers are determinedly solitary creatures who actively avoid their own kind other than for mating. Cubs are raised by their mother and will stay with her for two years before seeking territories of their own.
Unlike many zoos Howletts and its sister park, Port Lympne, leave the male together with the female throughout the birth and rearing of the cubs.
The Aspinall Foundation is a UK-based charity devoted to saving rare and endangered species and returning them to protected areas in the wild.