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Sumatran tigers: 'Critically endangered' species triplets born at Chester Zoo

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Media captionThe tigers were born to eight-year-old Kirana after a 105-day pregnancy

A trio of rare Sumatran tigers cubs have been born at Chester Zoo.

The tigers, classed by conservationists as critically endangered, were born to eight-year-old tigress Kirana on 2 January after a 105-day pregnancy.

Sumatran tigers are found only on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra. They are the smallest of all tigers and also have the narrowest stripes.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, said he was "thrilled" with the "special arrivals".

He said: "These tiny triplets are now part of a safety net against the population in the wild becoming extinct.

"That to me is incredibly humbling."

With their mother keeping a close eye on her cubs, it will not be possible to ascertain their sex for some time.

Mr Rowlands added: "We were first alerted to them when we heard tiny squeaks coming from their den.

"Initially we weren't sure about how many she had had - we just kept seeing flashes of tiny balls of fluff - but we've since spotted that there are three."

It is the third time Sumatran tiger cubs have been born at Chester Zoo, with Kirana producing litters in Oct 2011 and in June 2013.

"It's still early days but Kirana is an experienced mum and she's keeping her cubs very well protected. She's doing everything we would hope at this stage," said Mr Rowlands.

Sumatran tiger facts

Sumatran tigers are found in patches of forest on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

The species is classed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.

They are faced with a high threat of extinction due to widespread habitat loss and poaching for their body parts which are used in traditional medicine.

There are 300-400 Sumatran tigers in the wild with about 200-250 in captivity in zoos around the world.

Sumatran tigers are the smallest of all tiger species.

Their stripes are narrower and closer together than those of all other tiger species.

Source: Chester Zoo

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