Germany's Magdeburg Zoo has been showing off its latest new arrivals: a pair of white lion cubs. The twins came as something of a surprise to zoo staff, who hadn't noticed the mother was pregnant.
The fluffy twins, at present smaller than ordinary housecats and each weighing about 2 kilograms (4.5 pounds), were born 10 days ago.
Magdeburg Zoo said the pair represented the first real success it has had in breeding white lions. After some concern that the twins' 3-year-old mother Kiara might be too inexperienced to care for them, the zoo said it was increasingly optimistic.
"There are only some 70 white lions in Europe," said Magdeburg Zoo Director Kai Perret. "In that respect, these two new arrivals are, of course, something special."
The arrival of the cubs, who have yet to be named, came as something of a surprise, as keepers didn't realize Kiara was pregnant.
Cubs to meet the public
The youngsters, who at present sleep for 22 hours each day, won't be on display in the zoo's outdoor enclosure for some five weeks, Perret told German public broadcaster MDR. However, visitors were invited to see them for the first time at daily weigh-ins on May 7-8.
"We want to give a lot of animal lovers the chance to have a look at them," Perret said. "It just made sense to do their health checks in public."
White lions are a color variant of the tawny African Lion and are thought to be indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa, where locals traditionally regarded them as holy. A large proportion of the animals now live in zoos, with the animal hard-pressed to preserve its genetic distinctness in the wild.