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Rare lion cubs get visit from vet

Any youngster being given their vaccinations might be expected to throw a tantrum and these feisty lion cubs put on quite a show when they were visited by the vet.

The four rare lion cubs at Paignton Zoo, in Devon, were receiving their routine vaccinations at nine weeks. The cubs, who are yet to be named, will get their second round of injections at 12 weeks and are then given annual boosters.

The procedure may be routine but it takes a team of five to give the cubs the injections as quickly and efficiently as possible. Staff at the zoo said it was a thrill to be up close and personal with the cubs, but at the same time they had to follow safety protocols.

The keepers wore big leather gauntlets to protect them from the cubs, who snarled throughout in disapproval, while the growls of their mother Indu could also be heard from the den.

Giving the cubs their vaccinations were two members of Paignton Zoo's in-house vet team, Catherine Bergzoll and Celine Campana, plus mammal keepers Helen Neighbour and Dave Rich. Co-ordinating everything was Matthew Webb, the senior head keeper of mammals.

Ms Bergzoll said: "We use a cat vaccine - the process is essentially the same as for pet cats. We also give them a thorough exam to check things like their hearts."

After the cubs were vaccinated, micro-chipped and given a quick health check they were reunited with their protective mother who was prowling just a few metres away.

The cubs weighed between 7.6 and 8.8 kilos (16 to 19 pounds) - far more than your average adult domestic cat, which would tip the scale at around four or five kilos (between eight and 11 pounds). They are also stronger, wilder and come fully-equipped with claws and teeth.

"Charting their progress can be difficult, as we try to handle them as little as possible," said Ms Bergzoll.

"Making sure they are growing and increasing in weight is important. We have CCTV cameras so we can check that they are behaving normally and suckling or eating without having to disturb them."

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