It was a surprise even for the zoo directors. At the very end of last month, two rare white lion females at the Stukenbrock Safari Park near Dortmund gave birth at the exact same time. The result? Seven tiny white lion cubs joining a worldwide population of roughly 200.
The babies, four males and three females, were born to five-year-old twin sisters, Kibo and Mawensi, who were also born in the park. Kibo immediately began caring for her offspring, but Mawensi seemed uninterested, forcing zookeepers to step in and raise her four cubs by hand.
"We carefully observed the mothers' behavior in the first 24 hours," said Fritz Wurms, head of the safari park, in a statement. "Kibo was touchingly attentive to her cubs, feeding them and cuddling them to keep them warm. We tried to give Mawensi time to get used to her new role as a mother."
The zoo claims that the birth of seven white lions in one day is a world record. First observed in the wild in 1975, white lions are incredibly rare. They are not albinos, rather they are a mutation of the sub-species of lion found in region of the Timbavati Game Reserve and Kruger National Park in South Africa. White lions have been extinct in the wild for 12 years, but continue to be raised in captivity.
The safari park in Stukenbrock has raised white lions since the 1990s. Now it boasts 24 of the rare animals, more than any other zoo in Europe. Sunshine and Future, two white lions who found fame with magicians Siegfried and Roy, both hail from Stukenbrock.
The seven new baby cats will make only periodic public appearances in the coming weeks. But soon they will be given the run of the park's large lion enclosure. They will, however, be kept apart from the zoo's other animal oddity of note: Eclyse the horse-zebra hybrid, which arrived at the park last year.