THREE stunning Sumatran tiger cubs have taken their first steps into their new enclosure.

The two-month-old cubs were born to Flamingo Land’s Surya and Bawa and have been named as Kuasa, Mentari and Bulan.

Today the critically endangered tigers took their first tentative steps through the hatch and into the outside enclosure of their home in the Ryedale park.

Sarah Mills, director of marketing for Flamingo Land, said: “Recent estimates of world population levels of Sumatran Tigers are as low as 400 so we are extremely proud of being part of this massive boost of a nearly one per cent increase in world population numbers.

“The average life expectancy of these tigers in the wild is only four years, but the expected lifespan of Surya and Bawa is in excess of 20 years. We can now look forward to many more productive years for our breeding pair as a vital part of worldwide conservation efforts to save this species from extinction.”

An academic from the University of York’s Environment Department is to embark on conservation work in Sumatra following the birth of the endangered Sumatran tiger cubs.

Dr Andy Marshall, an environment lecturer at the University of York and Director of Conservation Science at Flamingo Land, will now travel to Sumatra next year to investigate the potential for further protection of the species in their native country.

The Sumatran tiger is one of the most endangered subspecies of tiger, with recent estimates suggesting only 440 individuals remain in the wild.

They are threatened by the illegal trade in tiger parts, as well as the loss of their native habitat in Indonesia, where rainforests are being cut down to create oil palm plantations at a rate of three to six per cent every year.

Alongside increasing the captive population, Dr Marshall now hopes to further their conservation in the wild by improving the environment in Sumatra itself.

Dr Andy Marshall said: “This is a significant event for tigers worldwide. The viable wild Sumatran tiger population is below 300 individuals and an approximately equivalent number form part of the global conservation breeding efforts by zoos. This is one of many species dependent on zoos for survival, through both breeding and fundraising for field conservation efforts.”

The new-born cubs at Flamingo Land will stay with their mother for up to two years before being moved on to other zoos as part of the international breeding programme.