A German zoo is mourning the deaths of two newborn lion cubs who were eaten by their mother two days after their birth.
The Leipzig Zoo announced the tragic deaths on its Facebook page on Tuesday.
The post, written in German, said the lioness “Kigali” seemed to be taking good care of the male cubs until she suddenly ate them.
Adding to the tragedy: The lion cubs were the first ones born at the zoo in 15 years.
Kigali, who was separated in an area for mothers, is currently being resocialized with Majo, the father of the two cubs, the zoo said on Facebook.
Although female lions have been known to kill their offspring if the cubs are sick or handicapped, zoo officials said they can’t conduct an autopsy on Kigali’s cubs because she ate them, according to Fox News.
Animal behavior expert Maren Huck told CNN that it is more common for lionesses in captivity to eat their young than those in the wild.
“If the cubs themselves behave strangely, that might be a reason for animals to eat their offspring,” Huck said. “If their infant doesn’t respond as an infant should do, it’s not recognized as an infant and therefore the maternal instinct doesn’t kick in.”
Huck added that when animals in captivity are stressed, they are more likely to eat their cubs, but said the incident does not necessarily mean there are animal welfare issues at the zoo.
“They would have to check carefully whether it happens again, particularly whether the same female does it again,” Huck said. “If it doesn’t happen again, it’s more likely due to inexperience of the mother, or health problems in the infant.”