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Wildlife Safari, a zoo in Winston, Oregon, is celebrating the birth of two critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs. These adorably precious cubs — a male and a female — are definitely good news for their species. It’s estimated that only 400 of these beautiful cats (also called Sunda tigers) remain in the wild, Newsweek reports.

Photo by Aaron Yost/The News-Review

These Tiny Sumatran Tiger Cubs Will Brighten Your Day

The adorable babies are named Phoebe, for the female cub; Luhahn for the male. The little ones were born on July 11 2021 to nine-year-old resident mom, Riya. Phoebe was the first to enter the world, at about 10:15 a.m., while Luhahn made his debut around 6:15 p.m.

First, the staff weighs tiny Luhahn:

Photo by Aaron Yost/The News-Review

Next, it’s Phoebe’s turn:

Photo: Aaron Yost/The News-Review

While this is Riya’s first time as a mom, zoo officials say she’s definitely doing a good job.

“Mom cleaned the cubs off immediately and they have both been nursing away,” Sarah Huse, Wildlife Safari’s carnivore supervisor, told The News-Review.

The birth of these darling babies is momentous because it represents “not only a huge accomplishment for Wildlife Safari but also for the entire zoo community and the international tiger population,” Huse added.

The Cubs Will Continue Bonding With Their Mom

They will depend on Riya’s milk for some while and it will be a few months before they will be able to make their public debut, zoo officials note in a Facebook post. This is the first time in almost 40 years that Sumatran tiger cubs have been born at the zoo. The births of these babies are a bright spot in a situation that has been dismal for tigers.

Thanks to human greed and selfishness, three tiger species, out of eight originally, have been eradicated in the past half-century. The five species that still remain are in a perilous situation, thanks to habitat loss, hunting and poaching tigers for their body parts. Perhaps most tragically, the IUCN Red List has characterized Sumatran tigers as “critically endangered.”

Zoos Around The World Are Stepping Up

Many have established breeding programs geared toward producing healthy cubs. And in the U.S. the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has developed the Tiger Species Survival Plan (Tiger SSP) to ensure AZA-accredited institutions step in to enforce tiger conservation.

“The Tiger SSP breeding program is desperate to successfully breed new genetics and get cubs on the ground,” she notes. “There has been a severe lack of tiger cubs born the last couple of years with shut downs and restrictions at other zoological facilities.”

Huse didn’t specifically mention if the shutdowns and restrictions were due to COVID-19 but according to the non-profit group American Humane in a June 2020 report, accredited zoos and aquariums were struggling because they were closed to the public because of the pandemic. This, of course, caused a steep shortfall in revenue. 

The Tiger SSP notes the goals are to:

  • Maintain genetically diverse tiger populations as a “genetic insurance policy” for their wild counterparts.
  • Raise awareness about the plight of tigers and funding for their conservation.
  • Support research on tiger biology and care.

We’re going to add here that this is entirely dedicated to preserving and helping tigers both in zoos and in the wild. We do NOT condone breeding programs for wild animals for private sales, photo opportunities or any human handling of the animals. 

Older Sumatran tiger cub. Photo by Alena Tučímová/Pixabay

So the birth of tiny Phoebe and Luhan is definitely excellent news. The cute little squirts are only the second pair of Tiger SSP cubs to be born since 2018, Huse notes.

Hope For The Future

These beautiful little cubs are in good hands. They’ll likely receive a lot of love and care all their lives. And hopefully, when they reach sexual maturity (around five years old in males, and three to four years in females) they will do their part to help their species. As you can see in this recent photo (Sept. 5) below Phoebe and Luhahn are on their way — putting on a good growth spurt — and cuddling with mom. We don’t know which cub is which but they are really beautiful, as is mom Riya.

This video from Wildlife Safari shows just how adorable these babies really are.

And while they’re cute now, they will be awe-inspiring when they grow up, as the adult Sumatran tiger shows us below.

Photo by Joleńka/Pixabay

It’s so lovely to realize that good people are working hard to save these awesome big cats. Let’s hope for a world with more wild tigers.

In the video below, watch caring mom Riya interacting with her precious babies. Video by Ryan Finlay:

Update on Luhahn and Pheobe

In an update on the cubs, Wildlife Safari shows how Luhahn is doing in March 2022:

“Eye of the tiger 👁 …. Featuring cub Luhahn! He and his sister Phoebe are growing like crazy. Their last weights were close to 95 and 85lbs!” they posted.

Both cubs love playing in their outdoor pools, hence the wet spot on Luhahn’s nose below:

Sumatran tiger, Luhahn

All photos by Wildlife Safari/Facebook except where noted

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