Chapter one - The den

by ZSL on

Chapter one - The den

Tiger and her cubs

Kemala is just a few hours old. 

The tiny tiger cub is a squirming ball of fluff, blind and completely helpless. Nuzzled into the soft fur of Mum’s stomach, she mews hungrily. With a giant tongue, Mum licks her from the tip of her tiny nose down to her tail, and again, and again. She might not be able to see what Mum looks like yet - but she already knows she’s the best. 

On either side of her are two other squishy, squirmy fur balls, mewing away. Her two brothers.

Nestled into Mum, who seems giant, they feel toasty and safe. Her body rises and falls, rises and falls, and they listen to the familiar sound of her heartbeat. She smells musky and, although the ground is hard, and the new world scary, she is soft and comforting.

Kemala glugs as much warm milk as she can fit in her teeny tummy before Zzzzzzzz. It’s time to cat nap.

She’s woken by something completely new. The sound of singing? From not too far away. One solo voice calls out, its song on repeat. Then suddenly, all at once, hundreds join in. All with dif-ferent sounds and songs. The fill the air, echoing all around. It’s almost deafening - and so an-noying. Kemala scrunches up next to one of her brothers. Whatever they are, she wishes they’d shut up and let her sleep.

Days go past and Kemala and the cubs drink milk, squirm around and snooze. They’re getting bigger and chunkier and clamber over one another battling for milk. They’ve pretty much ex-plored all of Mum now. A giant, furry island with a massive, flat, rough tongue, four big, squishy paws for batting them when they get too boisterous, and one long tail, which flicks around when it’s time to be quiet and go to sleep. 

Then one day something amazing happens. 

Kemala can see. 

At first everything is bright and blurry but, bit by bit, a picture starts to emerge - Mum. And she is magnificent. Striped all over, her body is long and slim and powerful. Her eyes are big and bright, standing out against the pattern of her large furry face. Being a tiger is awesome.

And where have they been living all this time? Kemala looks around. The walls are wobbly and stony and completely surround them, except for…maybe…a little in the distance - it that a hole?

For the next few days Kemala explores the den bit by bit, getting a little bit braver every time. A couple of days after, her brothers’ eyes open too, revealing bright blue peepers. They’re smaller and much more cautious than Kemala though, only exploring a couple of metres before wrig-gling back to Mum mewing.

Well, forget those scardy cats, Kemala’s decided it’s time. Time to explore the hole. She’s now seen Mum use it several times - and she wants to see what’s out there.

The next time Mum’s snoozing, she sneaks up to it, her paws wobbling. As she gets closer the light starts to change, her eyes adjusting as things become sharper. 

Gingerly she approaches the opening. She pops her head out…


Something large and feathery is standing right in front of the cave. It flaps its big wings in shock.

Kemala tumbles back into the den, running as fast as her paws will take her, tripping over them as she dashes back to Mum and the cubs.

She scrambles over Mum, hiding in her fluffy stomach fur and panting. What was that mon-strous thing?! With its sharp beak and feathers. It was nothing like a tiger. Kemala nestles into Mum’s warmth, her rough tongue brushing through her coat. Her eyes start to drift shut.

Maybe she’ll leave it a while before exploring outside again.

Watch out for chapter two coming soon!

Select a blog

Careers at ZSL

Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

Nature at the heart of global decision making

At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!


We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.


From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.


A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About

Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.