Auckland Zoo’s three 14-week-old Sumatran tiger cubs made their public debut on Wednesday.

In front of a large gathering of public and media, Jular, Berani and Cinta shyly made their way into the public gaze — but only after zookeepers first sent three stuffed toy cubs in their place.

They made their way into the open some time after their mother Molek, getting used to the sun and the public before relaxing next to their mum.

Jular, Berani and Cinta are the result of a 10-year breeding programme.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered with fewer than 300 remaining in the wild.

Auckland Zoo carnivore team leader Andrew Coers said he hoped people would see the cubs, connect with them and want to help.

The tiger team has been helping to build up Molek’s confidence to venture outside with her cubs.

“In recent weeks we’ve been giving Molek access to go outside about three times a day.

“She has been coming out, checking the area is safe and then calling the cubs out.

“Once outside, the cubs have been absorbing everything new and enjoying playing with each other and Molek, which has been great to watch.

“But being so young, they tire easily, so they have been heading back inside after about 20 minutes.

Time outside would increase as they grew.

Coers said there was no guarantee of seeing the cubs and visitors had to be patient.