Animal circuses are accompanied by controversy every time they come to Malta at Christmastime.

But this year’s circus at Gżira came with a twist after two female tigers gave birth to six cubs on their way to Malta.

The cute twist is unlikely to fend off criticism from animal lovers who feel animal circuses are wrong. But as the cubs whine under the watchful eye of their mothers the Viviana Orfei circus owners insist the birth of the cubs is proof of the good care they give animals.

Born in captivity, the owners argue the animals know no better. “They are part of our family,” they insist.