3 tiger cubs born at Palm Beach Zoo

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Palm Beach Zoo's tiger collection just grew by three.

Berapi, a Malayan tiger, gave birth to the cubs late last week - an event captured by the video camera mounted in her indoor den, zoo officials announced Monday morning.

They comprise only the second Malayan tiger litter born in an American zoo this year, according to Palm Beach Zoo President and CEO Terry Maple.

For now they're just handfuls of fur. They've not been weighed or measured. Born Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday morning, zoo keepers aren't even sure of their sex. Only mother Berapi gets that close. They haven't even opened their eyes.

Maple says the cubs may begin to explore their surroundings in the next couple weeks, but no one will likely give them a check up for six to eight weeks.

"We let mamma take care of them. She's doing a wonderful job. We don't want to spook her," Maple said.

Meanwhile, zoo officials are faced with the same crisis families go through when babies arrive: they need more space. The zoo, which sits at 1301 Summit Blvd., in West Palm Beach, is planning a new tiger exhibit - one that will accommodate five grown tigers. It is seeking to raise $5 million for that project.

The first $45,000 is already in the bag.

That's the amount Netscape founder Jim Clark bid for naming rights to one cub at a January auction.

Zoo officials haven't determined how they'll pick the name for the other two.

The family of five is expected to live at the new exhibit for the next two or three years, when the cubs will be old enough to move to another zoo. But Maple said he expects Berapi to have more cubs.

Berapi arrived in November as a potential love match for Rhimba, a long-time resident of the zoo.

Malayan tigers are named for their home on the Malayan Peninsula. They are among the smallest of the tiger species. Estimates of how many Malayan tigers live in the wild vary, but there may be as few as 500, according to the Palm Beach Zoo.