YA'AN CITY, China (CNN/CCTV) - A nest of quintuplet lion cubs in Ya'an of Southwest China's Sichuan Province in urgent need of dog nannies due to their mother's insufficient supply of milk now has a mother substitute.
The mother lion delivered on Friday the rare handful of cubs, a batch that usually maxes out at just a trio.
The mother lion was actually found to be pregnant when a 7-magnitude earthquake hit Ya'an City in April.
The lioness had been trapped for 29 days before being finally saved and transferred to Bifengxia Zoo.
According to the breeder, the zoo was previously feeding the cubs with cow's milk -- which can cause harm to the cubs in the long-term and even cause them to lose all their fur.
"Then, their survival rates drop dramatically, for the ingredients of cow's milk differ greatly from those of a lioness' milk. So we need the assistance of a dog and her milk, for a dog's milk is almost the same as a lioness,'" said Liu Jialiang, Bixiafeng Zoo's deputy director of technology. "And based on the successful cases in zoos throughout the nation, cubs may have a high likelihood to survive when cared by a dog."
A qualified dog nanny undergoes strict selection.
"The dog should be a large mother-to-be or a new mother with ample milk," said Jialiang. "Last, but not least, she should be docile. Otherwise, we breeders cannot approach her."
After media broadcasting, a Mingshan County farmer contacted the zoo to say his 3-year-old wolfhound named Lai met the requirements. The second-time mom had just delivered three puppies on Sunday.
That's when Bifengxia Zoo staff decided to take both the puppies and mama to the zoo. The first step was to get her familiar with the environment.
"Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, we will gradually make her feed the cubs," said Jialiang.
Zookeepers said they will gradually put one cub with the puppies and that the smell of the puppies on the cub will persuade the mother dog that it is her own child. Thus, she'll begin feeding it.
As the cubs grow up daily, they will eat more, and zookeepers said the nursing dog will soon fail to meet their needs.
"Of course, one female dog is not enough," said Liu Jialiang. "We need two or three more. So we hope people who have mother-to-be dogs or dogs who are new moms can contact us."
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