Easy tiger! 18-year wait for cubs ends

They're Grrrrreat!: The first picture of Blackpool Zoo's new Siberian tiger cubs
They're Grrrrreat!: The first picture of Blackpool Zoo's new Siberian tiger cubs
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Two rare tigers at Blackpool Zoo have earned their stripes after the female gave birth to a pair of tiny cubs.

The twin male Siberian tiger cubs - still to be named - are the first of the endangered species to be born at the Zoo for more than 18 years.

And it is thought that more could follow, with their parents Zambar and Alyona having now established their capacity to breed.

Keepers discovered Alyona had given birth overnight on June 11 and have now released the first pictures of the cubs.

They initially closed the Big Cat House , whitewashing the windows to allow mother and babies to bond in private.

But it has now been partially opened to the public, and the cubs can be spied through one of the windows.

They are said to be starting to tentatively explore their surroundings.

Peter Dillingham, the Zoo’s animal manager, said: “We had suspected the pregnancy for a while after keepers had observed Zambar and Alyona mating earlier in the year.

“We prepared a cubbing den in advance and keepers were over the moon to find two tiny cubs feeding from mum when they arrived at work.

“Both will play a vital part in the breeding programme and we look forward to seeing them having fun outside soon.”

Zambar, now aged 10, was born at Marwell Wildlife Park in Hampshire, where he was hand-reared after being rejected by his mother.

He arrived in Blackpool in 2010 and was joined in 2012 by Alyona, now six, who arrived from her birthplace, Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands.

Lowdown on a big cat species under threat

The Siberian or Amur tiger is the largest member of the big cat family.

It is an endangered species due to habitat loss. In 2005 an estimated 400-500 tigers remained in the wild in the Far East of Russia and north east China.

They can breed from the age of four, gestation lasts around three months and litters usually range from two to six cubs.

They can live for up to 20 years in captivity or for between 10-15 years in the wild.