A “special” pair of rare red pandas have been born as part of an international breeding programme for the endangered species.
The twin males were born in the summer at Longleat Safari Park and handlers said they were developing well.
Keepers said this was down to their parents, who are important to the European Endangered Species Programme due to their diverse genetics.
Keeper Samantha Peeke said it was “an incredible thing to be part of”.
“As the cubs grow, they will go on to join the endangered species breeding programme and help ensure the survival of their species,” she said.
“Whilst they are young, they spend most of their time inside one of the nest boxes in the enclosure, where [their mother] Emma feeds and cleans them.
“Every animal birth is always special and exciting, but breeding an endangered species is an incredible thing to be part of.”
The cubs were born in June, but the zoo has only now released details about them.
As they mature, the cubs will start to explore the outside world under the watchful eye of parents Emma and Lionel supported by expert keepers.
The twins will be checked on throughout the day and Emma will be monitored closely whilst keepers adapt her diet and environment as needed to ensure she has everything she needs to look after them.
The cubs will also be regularly weighed to ensure their continued growth and development.
Longleat said it has extensive experience of looking after and breeding red pandas, with six previous cubs having been successfully reared at the park, all of which have gone on to join breeding programmes at other collections across Europe.
The red panda is recognised as endangered in the wild, meaning the species faces a high risk of extinction in the near future due to deforestation and habitat loss, poaching and the illegal pet trade.
According to the Wiltshire safari park, numbers are thought to be as low as 2,500 in the wild.
In addition to being part of the European Endangered Species Programme for the Red Panda, Longleat is also helping to fund habitat restoration and replanting projects in Nepal.
Source : bbc