Video Shows Rare Tiger Cubs Explore Outdoor Enclosure for the First Time

Three adorable Amur tiger cubs took their first steps outside at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's [RZSS] Highland Wildlife Park today. A video shared to the organization's social media pages showed the cubs exploring their outdoor enclosure as their mother Dominika kept a close eye on the younglings. With their species on the brink of extinction, these cubs are important to the conservation of Amur tigers.

The park announced the cubs will have regular outdoor access starting today, following their first health check and vaccinations from the staff last week. Up until now, the cubs have spent most of their time in a cubbing den with their mother.

In a statement to Newsweek, Keith Gilchrist, animal collection manager at Highland Wildlife Park shared the cubs won't be spending too much time outdoors just yet.

"Given how young they are, they won't be allowed outside for the whole day and will likely only be out for short bursts, followed by long naps indoors," he said.

However, visitors will still have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the litter as they explore their new home.

"At 10-weeks-old, our cubs are getting braver and more playful every day, with their personalities already starting to develop," Gilchrist said. "It is lovely to see just how excited our visitors are to meet them."

Though the cubs were born in May, they were just recently given names.

Highland Wildlife Park shared the two female cubs were named by the charity's donors. One was named Nishka, meaning precious jewel, and the other was named Layla, meaning night.

The public helped name the male cub by selecting one of the two options shared in a social media survey. The two names, Aleksander and Dimitri, were shortlisted by the park's keepers.

"Aleksander was chosen as the cubs were born on carnivore keeper Alex's birthday and Dimitri is a Russian name meaning earth-lover after Greek goddess Demeter," Gilchrist explained.

After much deliberation, the public chose Aleksander.

All three cubs were given names to honor their Russian roots.

Amur tigers, commonly known as Siberian tigers, are endangered. The Wildcats Conservation Alliance said an estimated 500-550 Amur tigers can be found in Russia today, with a small, unidentified number ranging across the border into China and potentially North Korea.

According to research conducted by the alliance, Amur tigers were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. At that time, fewer than 50 individuals remained in the wild. But after World War II, Russia banned tiger hunting, allowing the species to rebound in population size.

However, National Geographic reported that though there are many protections in place for Siberian tigers, hunting is still a major threat, not only to Siberian tigers but to all tigers. Tigers are often hunted for trophies, and their body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Apart from medicine, the demand for tiger products has also risen across China.

The publication said that tiger-bone wine has become "a luxury good among China's growing elite." To meet the demand for this wine, China established its first tiger farm in 1986. Since, hundreds of tiger farms have been established throughout China, Southeast Asia and South Africa, all with suspected ties to commercial trade.

Though these farms house more than 8,000 tigers, National Geographic also reported that some believe the medicine made by wild tigers to be more "potent" than that made by tigers in captivity. It is also said to be cheaper to kill tigers in the wild and smuggle their parts. As a result, the population size of wild tigers continues to decline.

Amur tiger cub
A video shared by Scotland's Highland Wildlife Park today showed three Amur tiger cubs exploring their outdoor enclosure for the first time. Pictured above is an Amur tiger cub from the Hamburg Zoo. Christian Augustin / Contributor/Getty

Updated 07/29/2021, 3:44 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the Highland Wildlife Center, as well as the names given to the tiger cubs.