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Two Chinese leopard cubs born in Paris zoo

A Paris zoo officially introduces its newest — and cutest — arrivals, two Chinese leopard cubs named Wei, or "big and strong," and Xun, meaning "fast" or "quick."
Image: Baby Leopard Wei
Baby Leopard, Wei plays at the Jardin des Plantes zoo in Paris, Monday Jan. 19, 2009. Wei and his brother Xun, not seen, were born on Nov. 30, 2008. Jacques Brinon / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Paris zoo officially introduced its newest — and cutest — arrivals Monday, two Chinese leopard cubs, six-week-old brothers Wei, or "big and strong," and Xun, meaning "fast" or "quick."

A bold Wei and his more taciturn brother posed for curious onlookers before being dragged away by their 2-year-old mother, Orly.

They were born Nov. 30 as part of a European exchange program — Orly is from the Berlin Zoo and father Kitai is from the Salzburg Zoo. The birth announcement was delayed to ensure that mother and sons were in good health.

The leopards, from the rare subspecies known as the North China Leopard or panthera pardus japonensis, are found in the mountains and forests of northern China. They survive on wild animals, including boar, stag, pheasants and hare.

Jacques Rigoulet, director of the zoo compound at the Jardin des Plantes, said the solitary leopards breed quite easily, normally in January or February when the female is in heat.

Mother Orly was less amorous shortly after birth, rejecting Kitaia. She will continue nursing her cubs for three months, with Kitai held in a separate cage.

Only 2,500 North China Leopards currently live in the wild, while 42 are held captive in European zoos. The zoo at Jardin des Plantes has a long-standing breeding program of North China Leopards.