Huani feeds the tiger triplets and her own puppy at the Paomaling Zoo in Jinan, China.
A Chinese dog has become the surrogate mother of tiger triplets born at a zoo in the country's eastern Shandong province. The mongrel bitch called Huani is suckling the tiger cubs, imaginatively named One, Two and Three by staff at Jinan Paomaling Wild Animal World, because their mother rejected them shortly after birth 10 days ago.
The zoo manager, Chen Yucai, said Huani is expected to nurse the tigers for about a month, or until their appetites outpace her milk supply. Mr Yucai said it was common for Chinese zoos to use dogs as surrogate mothers for rejected tiger cubs. Zoo staff have previously put dog urine on the fur of rejected cubs to make the surrogate think she is nursing her own pups.
However, this time the zoo did not need to because Huani, who has nursed tigers before, did not seem to mind caring for the cubs. "The family is getting along well and seems to enjoy each other," Mr Yucai said. A spokeswoman for London Zoo said staff try to match an abandoned animal with a mother of the same species with young of a similar age wherever possible.
In the 1990s, an Asiatic lion at the zoo abandoned her cub and staff successfully placed it with another lion that had given birth to two cubs. The spokeswoman said the cub was placed in the surrogate mother's litter so it would acquire her smell and be accepted by her. Although the cub was initially reluctant to take on the new mother, the 'adoption' proved successful.
If a mother of the same species cannot be found, staff at London Zoo will try to find a companion animal for the abandoned young. Staff once placed an abandoned tiger cub called Harry with an Akita hound, which he lived with for about nine months. The spokeswoman said it was preferable for the abandoned cub to imprint - the process by which an animal learns the characteristics of its parents - on a four-legged animal rather than a human being.