Tiger cubs eaten by their mother at zoo

VIDEO A litter of tiger cubs born recently at Colchester Zoo have been eaten by their mother, it has emerged.

A LITTER of tiger cubs born recently at Colchester Zoo have been eaten by their mother, it has emerged.

The cubs were the first ones born at the zoo and the first for Anoushka, an Amur tiger, and arrived at the beginning of last week.

Zookeepers left the mother alone in a specially built enclosure, so it is not known how many cubs were in the litter, but the average is between two and three.

Cameras placed inside the den to monitor their progress were no longer working after they were knocked by Anoushka.

Anthony Tropeano, the zoo's curator, said it was not unusual for big cats to eat their young, especially when it was their first set of cubs.

He said staff were upset by what had happened on Tuesday morning, but said they remained hopeful Anoushka would successfully breed again.

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He said: “It is the first litter of cubs we have had here and she was a first time mother.

“We don't know what caused her to do it, you never really know - we don't know if it was because they were weak when they were born or because she had not managed to feed them.

“We give them absolute privacy so there is no one around, so for the first few days we really have got little control as to what is going on in there. We wanted her to feel it was as private as possible.”

Anoushka was in a specially built “cubbing den” within the enclosure, so there was as little disturbance as possible.

Mr Tropeano said he did not believe they had died because the animals are in captivity.

“Look at the number of tigers in captivity that have bred in captivity over the past 30 years, it is five or

six hundred.

“To point the finger and say it is to do with the captive environment is not correct because tigers have reproduced very successfully in captivity.

“We are really, really disappointed. It is the first time in 20 years that we have had a pair of tigers with a breeding recommendation.

“It is disappointing, but it has shown she is fertile and will be able to give birth and carry them to term.”