Here are a couple of fantastic pictures of Siberian tiger cubs taken in a zoo in south-west China. They are septuplets. The mother gave birth to her seven cubs on the 10th May 2017. China is trying to increase the number of Siberian tigers. All the remaining tiger subspecies are endangered. Some subspecies extinct already.
The Daily Mail states that after one month the breeders will feed the cubs. They will do this because it is believed that seven are too many for the mother to feed. This sounds correct as it is very stressful for a tigress to feed her cubs. It is almost impossible to overfeed mother or cubs under these circumstances.
The Daily Mail does not tell us what is to happen to the cubs. I would hope that they are released to the wild as part of a conservation program but this seems impractical as they were born in captivity and are being raised by people. Therefore I will presume that they are to be kept in captivity as a tourist attraction.
Siberian tigers are the largest subspecies of tiger and therefore the largest cats in the world (other than man-made hybrids).
Story illustrating tigress training cubs to kill prey
There is an interesting story in the wonderful book Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist. The story concerns how young tigers learn to kill for themselves by imitation and practice after their mother provides them with opportunities to test their skills.
A scientist, George Schaller describes a mother training her 12-month-old cubs how to kill. It happened in the Kanha National Park. Mr Schaller was watching a “bait site”, which I presume is a tied up animal placed in an appropriate location to be attacked by a tiger. I think we can all disagree with that but I will continue with the story.
The bait was a tethered buffalo. The buffalo kept the three cubs at bay for 2 1/2 hours. When the tigress arrived she grabbed the buffalo by a hind leg and threw it to the ground whereupon the cubs lept onto the animal biting and clawing at it at random while the tigress released her grip and stepped back.
The buffalo shook the cubs off and struggled to its feet with superficial wounds. The cubs attacked the buffalo again without success and so once again the tigress threw the buffalo to the ground using the same technique that she had used earlier.
Once again the cubs swarmed over the buffalo biting and clawing and once again after the tigress released her hold the buffalo rose to its feet. Eventually the buffalo was killed but the event was described as a “war of attrition”.
The tiger cubs failed to kill the buffalo efficiently because they attacked by biting and clawing around the rump, belly and back rather than suffocating the animal by a throat bite. The cubs were quite good at pulling down the animal but quite bad at killing it.
Male cubs learn to kill on their own and become independent sooner than females. At 15 months of age they may leave their mother for several days and test their independence. Females stay with their mother longer.