Critically endangered Sumatran tiger cubs -- just six months old -- got the chance to explore a new habitat Thursday, pouncing and sprinting around the greenery.
Mother Joanne and her three cubs, Cathy, Debbie and Nelson, let loose in the Tull Family Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for the first time. Up until Thursday, the cubs had been roaming around the habitat's maternity yard.
Now, the cubs will be able to run, jump, climb trees and gain an increased awareness of their surroundings as they grow bigger and stronger.
“At six months old it’s time for these cubs to graduate to a much larger exhibit," said Lori Hieber, senior mammal keeper, in a statement. "Exhibit B is roughly double the size of the maternity yard the cubs are used to, it offers new fun obstacles and challenges to explore and it has a pretty deep pond that actually has live fish in it."
The habitat also has a pool, which which help teach the cubs how to swim. In the wild, tigers often have to swim long distances to cross rivers, get to their prey or find a mate.
In the wild, tigers face a number of challenges, from loss of habitat to poaching.
These cubs are part of a diminishing breed. Today, there are less than 350 Sumatran tigers in the wild. Scientists predict this species could be extinct in their native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve them.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is working to battle that extinction by participating in a collaborative breeding program to create assurance populations of the tigers. The Park helps provide funding for anti-poaching patrols.
Friday is Global Tiger Day and guests at the Safar Park can celebrate by enjoying special activities at the Tiger Trail exhibit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including tiger talks and a tiger training session. If you visit the park on Friday, you'll be able to see these adorable cubs in their new habitat!