OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The world's first artificially conceived Siberian tiger has been born to a 7 1/2 -year-old female at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

The cub's birth Tuesday is a significant development in the effort to help ensure the genetic diversity and health of not only captive tigers but also a dwindling number of wild tigers confined by shrinking habitats, said Lee Simmons, director of the zoo.

The birth culminated 14 years of work between the Omaha zoo and the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. The Washington zoo developed and helped to perfect the artificial insemination technique used to fertilize the female tiger, Simmons said.

Zoo officials had not been able to get close enough to the new Siberian tiger to determine its sex, but said the cub and mother seem to be doing fine and were being left alone.

''The kit is acting and looking very strong and the mom is doing everything right,'' Simmons said.

The cub's father is a 9 1/2 -year-old Siberian, which romped outside in the snow Wednesday.

Two other big cats have been born elsewhere in the United States after artificial insemination - a cheetah at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas, and a leopard at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Both died within 24 hours.

The Siberian cub is the second species at the Omaha zoo to be bred through artificial insemination. Several gaur, a breed of wild cattle, were conceived through artificial insemination.

Two Bengal tiger cubs conceived in a laboratory before being implanted in a female tiger were born at the Omaha zoo in April 1990, the world's first test- tube tigers. One of those cubs died but the other still lives at the zoo.

The Omaha zoo said the Siberian tiger cub is the first artificially inseminated offspring produced from the Species Survival Plan, which recommends animals to be mated according to genetic value.

The project is aimed at increasing genetic diversity in a species, which ensures more healthy animals. Simmons said the artificial-insemination method means genetic material could be exchanged between zoos, between zoos and wild populations and between wild populations in different countries.

The tiger that gave birth Tuesday was one of seven that zoo officials attempted to inseminate in July. She was the only one that became pregnant.

''If we can get to the point where 50 percent take, we are going to declare (the program) a total, roaring success,'' Simmons said.