WINSTON — The newest addition to Wildlife Safari, two tiger cubs, opened their eyes for the first time at 10 days old.
Riya, a 9-year-old Sumatran Tiger, who is one of three adult tigers at the safari, welcomed her first set of cubs on July 11. This marks the first time in nearly 40 years that tiger cubs were born at the safari — the last litter was born in 1983.
“When the first text went out that the first cub hit the ground, there was just this big sigh of relief,” said Dan Brands, the park’s general curator. “We’re finally at this day that we’ve worked so hard to get to.”
The first cub born — tiger cubs can also be called whelps — was a female named Phoebe followed by a male named Luhahn. The names of the cubs were chosen by Toby and Christina Luther, major park contributors, according to the safari.
Phoebe and Luhahn have become the second litter of cubs born into the national Sumatran Tiger Species Survival program since 2018.
There are only an estimated 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild.
Knowing how a first-time mom will do with cubs is always unclear, said Sarah Huse, the park’s carnivore supervisor. Fortunately, Riya is a natural.
“Mom cleaned the cubs off immediately and they both have been nursing away,” Huse said.
The introduction of the tiger cubs adds to the conservation efforts at the Wildlife Safari. Since the early 1970s, Wildlife Safari has worked extensively in conservation efforts for cheetahs. Since the start of the Cheetah Breeding Program, a total of 231 cubs have been born at the facility.
While excitement surrounds the new cubs, Phoebe and Luhahn, won’t be making any public appearances outside their enclosure until they’ve grown strong and coordinated enough to follow mom outside, Huse said. Until then the park encourages the public to keep an eye on Facebook events celebrating the new cubs.