The birth of the cubs has almost doubled the population of white tigers in Delhi’s National Zoological Park, which now stands at seven including the latest litter, the zoo’s director Dharamdeo Rai told The Independent.
“We are pleased to inform you of the birth of three tiger cubs. Mother and all the three cubs are doing fine. Mother is nursing the cubs regularly and taking proper care. All the three cubs, like their mother, are white in colour,” Mr Rai said on Thursday.
The tiny cubs were born in one of the zoo’s enclosures on 24 August and turned eight days on Thursday, said the zoo’s top official. Keepers waited until the cubs were more than a week old before announcing the birth in a Twitter post.
Mr Rai said the delivery of the three-cub litter was successful and took an hour and a half.
The cubs were born to a white tiger couple named Vijay and Sita, officials said.
A video of the family in the enclosure showed the three tiny cubs latching on to Sita as the tigress mother nursed them.
It will take a little over two months before the public at large can see the white tiger cubs in action, Mr Rai said.
“The tiger’s cubs take around 18-22 [days] to open their eyes fully, be fully active and move around. These cats are too small to cross hurdles and logs in the zoo enclosures,” he told The Independent.
“As per our experience, we have to keep the cubs with the mother for at least two and a half months without any disturbance and away from the public glare,” he added.
Zoo officials will help the tigress rear the cubs by providing them with food and fresh water in captivity. Otherwise no keepers will approach the young family and the tigress will be allowed to nurse her cubs for the next few days.
“This is a very exciting phase for the zoo and the tigress as the officials are expecting more people to visit the premises to see the cubs which are expected to be seen on display in a few weeks from now,” the official said.
The zoo’s director says the three new cubs are part of the progress in India’s conservation efforts with respect to tigers.
“We are very hopeful that in the coming days we will be able to make our visitors more aware about the importance of the role of wildlife for a balanced ecosystem and also about the role of zoos in wildlife conservation,” the zoo director said.
White tigers are an exceptionally rare sight in India’s wild forests – with most of the estimated 200 white tigers around the world living in captivity.
White tigers are the same species as Royal Bengal tigers, but with a rare recessive genetic mutation. As such, they are almost always born through the deliberate breeding of two existing white tigers in captivity.
WWF says this means that white tigers are often inbred, and that every single individual living in captivity in private zoos across the US mainland today is descended from one male white tiger who was brought to the country decades ago. They caution that the breeding of such animals can be motivated more by their pull factor for tourists than by the healthy conservation of the species.