Baby red pandas curling up in their nest at Whipsnade Zoo with their mum. Video by ZSL
A pair of endangered red panda cubs have been born at a zoo - with staff celebrating what they called a "significant" moment for the species.
Pictures and video show the one-month-old twins curling up in their cosy nest box at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, with their mum.
They were born on 25 June to mum Ruby and dad Nilo, and weighed just 113g at birth - as heavy as a banana.
Zookeeper Grant Timberlake said: “We suspected Ruby was pregnant and wanted to do everything we could to make her first experience as a mum a smooth one, so we were ecstatic when we spotted her curled up in one of the nesting boxes we had prepared, using her bushy red tail to keep the two cubs warm.
“Ruby has been doing an incredible job feeding and caring for the twins, so we’re leaving the family to bond together, only checking in on them when she pops outside to eat.”
Cubs are blind for the first 30 days of their lives and are heavily reliant on their mothers.
They will soon open their eyes but will not venture out of their straw nest for at least another month.
They will not be named until their first vet check at eight weeks old, when the team will find out if they are male or female.
The birth of the baby red pandas are of "international significance", as a boost to the population of the endangered species, the zoo said.
Red pandas come from the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, Myanmar and India, as well as forests in Western China.
But they have been threatened by habitat loss, a decline in their main food source bamboo, and poaching for the illegal pet, meat and medicine trade.
Mr Timberlake added: “These twin cubs give us double hope for the species, as they were born as part of an important European breeding programme for Endangered red pandas, designed to keep a healthy and genetically diverse back-up population safe in conservation zoos - while we tackle the issues they’re facing in the wild."
Visitors to the zoo might not be able to see the babies yet, but they can look out for dad Nilo climbing his favourite oak tree or Ruby snacking on bamboo.
“Red pandas can be difficult to spot due to their shy nature, their nocturnal habits and the fact that they spend most of their time up trees - or in this case snuggled up inside a tree stump," Mr Timberlake said.
"We might not see much of Ruby and Nilo’s babies for the first couple of months of their lives, but they’ll be worth the wait when they come outside and start to explore.
"And in the meantime, we have these incredible pictures, charting their start to life.”
The conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo - the Zoological Society of London - is working to prevent the illegal wildlife trade in areas in Nepal and India.
Conservationists have helped train more than 400 rangers, build guard posts and watchtowers and install surveillance equipment to monitor threatened species, including the red panda, Asian elephant and Bengal tiger.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know