Two sets of Sumatran tiger cubs have been born at two different North Island zoos in an “exciting” start to the new year, staff say.

Auckland Zoo today announced the birth of two Sumatran tiger cubs for just the second time in the zoo’s history.

The cubs were born in the early hours of January 2 and are said to be receiving the “undivided attention” of five-year-old mum Zayana.

Auckland Zoo senior keeper of the carnivore team Nick Parashchak said she’s being highly protective of her offspring, who are born blind and are entirely dependant on their mother until they gain full sight around two weeks of age.

“In addition, she is spending a lot of time grooming them which is an important activity as it stimulates the cubs’ circulatory and digestive systems,” said Parashchak.

Zayana gave birth outside within a sheltered den in the tiger habitat, with zoo staff able to monitor her and the cubs from a “safe and discrete distance”.

Parashchak said with any animal births, the first weeks for both mother and offspring are always “critical”.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have achieved this milestone, and we’re cautiously optimistic that everything will continue to track well for Zayana and her cubs.”

It comes after Zayana gave birth to two cubs in September last year, however one died during birth and the other was killed by the mother shortly afterwards.

At the time, Auckland Zoo carnivore team leader Lauren Booth said although unfortunate, the incident was not uncommon in the wild.

“Their natural instincts will kick in, so having only one cub in the wild is not beneficial for the continuation of their genetics and their species, so sadly that cub didn’t survive,” she said.

The happy news was followed by the birth of two Sumatran tiger cubs at Hamilton Zoo today.

The new additions were born to mum Kirana and dad Scout early this morning.

They are the first cubs born at Hamilton Zoo since the birth of Kirana and her brother Kembali in 2014, and have been described as “healthy and strong”.

Carnivore team leader Shane Fox said the team are “very excited about the new additions” but have advised that the cubs have a lot of bonding and development to do with their mum over the next few months before they’re ready to venture out.

The big cats are critically endangered, with population numbers of fewer than 400 in the wild.