Your morning adorable: Dog nurses red panda cubs in Chinese zoo
At the Taiyuan Zoo in northern China's Shanxi province, a red panda gave birth to two cubs unexpectedly on June 25. "No one knew she was pregnant" because the panda's bushy fur and general plumpness masked her telltale burgeoning stomach, zoo employee Ha Guojiang told China's state news agency.
Immediately after the two cubs were born, they were abandoned by their mother -- so zoo staff set about finding a suitable adoptive mother. Several female dogs that had recently given birth to their own litters of puppies were considered for the gig, the Associated Press reports. Zoo staff chose this willing candidate, a white mixed-breed owned by a farmer who lives in a neighboring suburb.
She takes to her duties so enthusiastically, Ha said, that she sometimes even denies her own puppy milk in favor of the red pandas. The cubs are reportedly thriving and have doubled in length over the last weeks (they now measure about 8 inches long). As adults, they'll be about the size of a house cat (but with much larger, bushier tails than most cats) and spend most of their time in trees.
Red pandas are native to China, Myanmar and Nepal; they're classified as endangered because of habitat loss as a result of deforestation. See another photo of the adoptive mom and cubs after the jump!
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photos: Associated Press