Rare tiger cubs are going on show to the public after taking the first steps around their den at a wildlife park.
• Rare Amur tiger cubs to be displayed to public for first time
• Two cubs were born over a month ago at Highland Wildlife Park
The two Amur tigers were born just over a month ago at Highland Wildlife Park in Cairngorms National Park.
Visitors can see the cubs from tomorrow, as keepers gradually increase access.
It is hoped they will raise awareness of the plight of the species in the wild. Only around 450 wild Amur tigers are believed to be left, and the population is under threat from habitat loss and poaching.
The cubs were born to new mother Dominika on Tuesday May 28. Their sex will not be known until they are two to three months old, so they have not been named yet.
Their father Marty, who turns four this month, has met his youngsters but only through the wire mesh doors. Over the coming weeks he will be gradually introduced to them, though keepers are confident he will not present a risk to the cubs.
Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park, said: “From Wednesday we will begin the process of increasing access for our visitors to the cubs, initially by allowing them up to the large viewing window at the tiger house and gradually giving the cubs and their mother access outside.
“This process will eventually culminate in the full introduction of the adult male, Marty, to Dominika and the youngsters.
“As Dominika is a first-time mother and the cubs are a valuable addition to the breeding programme, we have taken a very cautious approach to their care. What the keepers have observed is that mum is very calm and competent, and the cubs are rapidly approaching the exploratory stage, so we are now happy to introduce them to their fans and the wider world.”
The Amur tiger is the largest of the big cats. Previously known as the Siberian tiger, the Amur was renamed in the 1990s when the last of them disappeared from Siberia.
They are now found only in isolated populations around the Amur River valley in the far east of Russia and on China’s north-east border. More Amur tigers are thought to be living in zoos than in the wild.
Mr Richardson said: “We hope that by seeing Dominika and her cubs we are able to inspire more people to support conservation organisations, like the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, that are trying to stem the loss of the planet’s biodiversity.”