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March 6, 2011

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The fluffy foursome

VISITORS to the Shanghai Wildlife Park will be able to see four "newcomers" there - the brown bear quadruplets born in January. The four cubs, have been living at the park's "cub-raising garden" since last month.

Officials said this is the first time for the park to have brown bear quadruplets. Twins, and sometimes triplets, are usually seen in a brown bear family, but quadruplets are rather rare. As a result, the cubs' mom Lei Lei has become the "hero mother" at the park.

Park officials said after being pregnant for six to seven months, Lei Lei gave birth without any artificial help. Carers had made full preparations in December, when her due date was approaching. They gave Lei Lei special food, and paved thick hay as her "obstetric table" in the cave where she usually lived. Meanwhile, Lei Lei herself also started preparing, as she added hay to the table everyday.

On a mid-January morning, carers were about to feed Lei Lei, but couldn't find her anywhere. They rushed to her "obstetric table," finding four cubs - tiny, grayish and fluffy - had come into the world. They were held by their mother, sucking her nipples for milk.

Lei Lei and the four cubs spent about 10 days in the cave. During this time, carers drove away other bears from the cave, ensuring the safety of the mother and her children. They put enough food and water in the cave, so Lei Lei could produce adequate milk for the cubs.

The cubs, however, had to face freezing and snowy weather soon after they were born. At that time, rain and snow hit the city frequently and temperatures dropped below freezing point. The violent weather could also do harm to Lei Lei's health as she was rather weak after childbirth so the carers decided to raise the cubs artificially.

Taking the babies away from their mother was hard work, as the loving Lei Lei stuck with her children all the time. The carers were unsuccessful in parting the cubs from their mom so after several attempts, they decided to lure Lei Lei out of the cave with food placed outside.

While Lei Lei was distracted by her favorite meal of carrots and steamed corn bread, carers went into the cave using another entrance. The newborn bears were taken to the "cub-raising garden," where they could stay in an air-conditioned environment, escaping the chilly weather.

In their new home, each cub received the first bath of their life. After that, vets gave them vaccines and a brief physical examination showed that the cubs were in good health, with their weights ranging between 970 to about 1,546 grams. Their feed was also changed from their mother's milk to baby formula.

At that time, the quadruplets were also given their names: Wei Ni, Wei Ke, Wei Jie and Wei Na, the latter the only female of the brood.

Today, the quadruplets are growing up smoothly along with other cubs in the garden. They sometimes roll and play on their beds, but for most of the time they sleep to their heart's content.


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