Two endangered Amur tiger cubs made their public debut Tuesday at the Minnesota Zoo. One of the two female cubs was flown to the Twin Cities in mid-July from the St. Louis Zoo. It has been hand-reared with another cub, one of two born June 17 at the Minnesota Zoo. The other Minnesota cub died within a few days of birth.

The pair are "nearly off bottles and growing strong [and] ready to go on exhibit for part of the day" in the Tiger Lair along the zoo's Northern Trail, said zoo spokeswoman Kelly Lessard.

The cub from St. Louis was born July 1. Zoo officials brought the two cubs together to encourage their inner tiger-ness. Neither was successfully nursed by its mother.

The Amur tiger, largest of all cats and one of six remaining tiger subspecies, is a top predator of far eastern Asia. Amur tigers can grow to more than 650 pounds and measure nearly 11 feet long, according to the National Geographic.

Their thick fur and padded paws protect them against extreme cold and icy winds, while their stripes help render them invisible to prey.

In about 1940, the wild Amur tiger population in Russia was estimated to be as low as 20 or 30. In 2005, scientists estimated that it had recovered to between 430 and 500, but it is thought that wild Amur tigers have since declined to about 350.

Since it opened in 1978, the Minnesota Zoo has welcomed nearly 40 Amur tiger cubs.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482