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Rare tiger cub triplets leave den

Three of the world's littlest big cats have taken their first steps into the spotlight at a UK zoo.

The three-week-old Sumatran tigers have just begun to emerge from their den at Chester Zoo, under the watchful eye of eight-year-old mother Kirana.

The chubby cubs are so little that keepers do not expect to learn their sexes for several weeks. But it's hoped the as-yet nameless triplets will help ensure a future for their species.

"Sumatran tigers are one of the rarest big cat species in the world," the zoo's mammals curator Tim Rowlands said.

"That's what makes our new tiger trio so incredibly special - they're a rare boost to an animal that's critically endangered."

It's believed that fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild.

The species is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and has been forced to the brink of disappearance by deforestation and poachers.

"It's still early days but Kirana is an experienced mum and she's keeping her cubs very well protected. She's doing everything we would hope at this stage," Mr Rowlands said.

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