America's New Tiger Trio

America has officially welcomed the three newest members -- Chrissie, Eric and Mike -- of the Great Cats exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

But don't you dare confuse these cute and playful tiger cubs with Winnie the Pooh's bouncing sidekick "Tigger," because "Tigger" they definitely are not.

The three 27-pound Sumatran cubs, which were born on June 24, were finally introduced to the public Wednesday, just five days after their three-month birthday. The trio entertained zoo visitors by chasing one another through bamboo, while their mother kept a watchful eye.

Zookeepers say the playful cats are still nursing but are already eating some solid food.

As for how the cubs got their names, Mike was named after two Michaels -- the zoo's own director, Michael Robinson, and outgoing Smithsonian director I. Michael Heyman. Eric and Chrissie were given the names of two kids who won a zoo art contest.

The cub's mother Kerinci, a 178-pound, 13-year-old tigress, has already had two previous litters which each yielded two cubs, including five-year-old daughter Soy who is also housed at the National Zoo.

Kerinci was found as an abandoned cub in Sumatra and is named after the highest mountain in her native homeland, which also happens to be an active volcano. The Jakarta Zoo donated Kerinci to the National Zoo's Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Program.

Sumatran tigers have the most elaborate markings of any tiger. Weighing in at average of 200 pounds, they are the smallest surviving sub-species of tiger and less than 500 of them are alive in the world today.

While conservationists credit the zoo with helping to save the cat from extinction, tigers breed fairly readily in captivity and animal keepers say they must be careful not to over-breed.

The zoo's mammal curator, John Seidensticker, says Kerinci's genes and those of her cubs are important in efforts to preserve the Sumatran tiger.

Seidensticker hopes to one day find a place to reintroduce some of the cubs' offspring to the wild.

As for Mike, Eric and Chrissie, when they're about two years old they'll go off to live in other zoos.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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