A little-known wildlife sanctuary in the Kennebec County town of Mount Vernon became the birthplace this month of what are believed to be the first tiger triplets ever born in Maine.
The cubs were born June 8 at the D.E.W. (Domestic, Exotic and Wild) Animal Kingdom & Sanctuary, a 42-acre farm on Pond Road that is home to more than 200 animals from all over the world. The sanctuary was founded in 1980 by Bob Miner, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, and is now run as a nonprofit organization by Miner and his wife, Julie.
The two male tiger cubs are white like their mother, a white-and-brown striped Bengal tiger with blue eyes named Makeena. The third cub, a female, has an orange tinge and looks more like her father, Tritan.
“They are rare. I believe it’s the first time tiger cubs have been born in Maine, let alone two white cubs,” said Stephen Jordan of Sidney, a close friend of the Miners who has taken many photographs of the cute, fuzzy animals.
Jordan described the sanctuary as working farm, “not a zoo.” He said the Miners have developed an unusually close relationship with each of the animals in their care.
“I consider this place one of Maine’s great hidden treasures,” Jordan said.
The farm’s website lists several species, including a black leopard, a cougar, a yak, a camel, a black bear, spider monkeys, donkeys, an alligator and an African pygmy hedgehog.
The tiger cubs’ family history started in 2011 with the birth of Makeena. A story in the Kennebec Journal that year featured photographs of Makeena as a cub weighing 9 pounds. Now she weighs more than 350 pounds.
Makeena was raised by the Miners and mated with Tritan, who also was born in 2011. The male tiger, with golden eyes, weighs about 500 pounds, according to Miner.
While the adult tigers live on a diet of mostly red meat, their cubs get a special protein formula that Julie Miner prepares and feeds to them with a baby bottle.
Bob Miner said the public is welcome to come and feed the cubs – they have been separated from their parents and can be viewed through a window in the sanctuary’s gift shop – but “they won’t be here for long.”
In about a month, each cub will be handed over to a pre-selected institution where it will be cared for and raised for educational purposes.
Miner would not identify the cubs’ future homes.
Miner, who started collecting animals for his own therapy, said they have helped him grow and learn to communicate with humans more effectively.
“I started collecting animals and it blossomed. Today, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
The Miners are asking the public on their Facebook page to email them to arrange any visits. They can be reached at DEW AnimalKingdom@yahoo.com.