JACKSON, N.J. ─ The Six Flags Wild Safari’s animal care team is celebrating the birth of two rare Siberian tiger cubs. The fuzzy, playful female cubs were born April 25 to mom Nadya, who was raised in a unique litter that also included an African lion cub named Zuri when the two were abandoned at birth four years ago. The unusual pairing -- native to different continents -- was hand-raised by the safari’s animal care team, and began a family tree built more on love than DNA.

Nadya’s ten-week-old cubs were named Heather and Julie after Heather Mitts Feeley and Julie Ertz, members of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Carli, Nadya’s first-born cub, was named after New Jersey soccer star Carli Lloyd and welcomed in 2019.

“It’s not uncommon for first-time tiger moms to abandon their cubs. Though Carli was hand-raised by our animal care team, Nadya has shown great care in raising Heather and Julie,” said Safari Veterinarian Dr. Ken Keiffer. “In the wild, cubs will spend two to three years with mom before they go off on their own.”  Nadya, Zuri, and Carli, raised by the safari’s animal care team, still show affection to their human “parents” despite being separated by fences. All three cats will rub on their fences, and the tigers will frequently give their signature “chuff” vocalization as a friendly greeting. The animal care team “chuffs” in return.  

Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Though Heather and Julie each weigh about 15 pounds, they will grow to be over 500. Siberian tigers, the largest cats in the world, are endangered and there are estimated to be fewer than 500 left in the wild.

Guests can visit Nadya, Heather, and Julie in the Tigris Asiana section of the Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure. “Aunt” Zuri the African lion and sister Carli are always nearby.