Two of three extremely rare Asiatic lion cubs born in a French zoo last year have been killed by their parents, zoo officials said, in a blow to conservation efforts.
The zoo at the natural history museum in Besançon, eastern France, said on Wednesday that a male cub had been killed this week and a female cub killed in mid-March.
The three cubs, two females and a male, were born on December 30th. Their eight-year-old mother, Shiva, was born in the same zoo while their father, Tejas, was born in Bristol in Britain five years ago.
The two lions were paired last year and Shiva gave birth to a first female cub in August, before the three other cubs were born.
One of the male cubs, named Sankha, died on Monday "as a result of sudden aggressive behaviour by his mother," the zoo said in a statement.
His sister, Kira, was rescued by zoo staff and was now old enough to be kept away from her parents, it said.
Another female cub was killed by her father on March 17th in what the zoo described as "an unfortunate incident".
According to the museum, there are only 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild, all of them living in the Gir forest in India's western Gujarat state.
Listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Asiatic lion (panthera leo persica) was once widely distributed across south-west Asia.