It was an exciting day for the staff and visitors at Australia Zoo. For the first time in its history, one of its tigers was giving birth – to twins! This is a rare occurrence, and it is especially exciting because Sumatran tigers are so very endangered.

Fewer than 500 of them are left in the world, so this birth has large implications for the perpetuation of the species.

Zookeepers are particularly excited that when the cubs grow up, they will be able to breed with other Sumatran tigers. More genetic diversity is very important to the integrity of the program and great news for the species as a whole. For now, of course, the focus needs to be on getting them through that delicate infant stage.

Their mother, Kaitlyn, wasn’t sure at first what to do with the first cub, which made the keepers nervous, but they knew that had to leave her to her own devices. Before long, she figured out that she needed to lick her cub’s fur, a process that stimulated his breathing.

So far, the cubs are doing well and are favorites with the visitors, who love to catch a glimpse of them in the exhibit. Hopefully, there will be many more successful birth stories to come for this beautiful but sadly dwindling species.