A British zoo is celebrating the birth of two very special new additions – critically-endangered Asiatic lion cubs.
Kamran and Ketan were born at Bristol Zoo Gardens on November 9, but their arrival has only just been officially announced.
The zoo was forced to make the rare and difficult decision to hand-rear the cubs after their mother, Shiva, began “mis-mothering” following the death of their father.
Lynsey Bugg, assistant curator of mammals said: “The initial transition was a very important time for the cubs.
“We placed straw from their previous enclosure on the ground for familiarity, and gave each cub a cuddly toy to snuggle into to mimic mum.
“We also worked closely with the vet team to monitor their fluid intake while we got both cubs used to feeding from artificial teats.”
It was just 12 days after the zoo’s lioness gave birth to the male cubs that 18-year-old Kamal was put to sleep due to his deteriorating health in old age.
Kamal was an “important male” for the conservation breeding programme, and a spokeswoman for the zoo said the a decision to hand-rear his cubs was made to give them the best chance of survival.
The lion cubs are an important part of the breed’s future with only about 300 Asiatic lions remaining in the Gir Forest Sanctuary in Northern India.
A team of five keepers are now dedicated to the cubs’ care.
Each day Kamran and Ketan have their weight, temperature and respiratory rate checked.
“Alongside the challenge of feeding you need to be mindful of everything you do when hand-rearing,” Ms Bugg said.
“We need to prevent the cubs from imprinting on the keepers, so we make sure we treat them the way that their mum would when we handle them.”
This involves picking them up by the scruff of the neck and brushing them with a coarse brush – which replicates them being licked by their mother’s tongue.