By Lauren Beavis

A pair of tiny fox kits are being hand-reared by keepers at a safari park.

Weighing in total just 46 grams, the adorable pair of fennec foxes at Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, have not been named yet named and their gender is unknown.

Samantha Peeke, their keeper, is sharing the sleepless nights with colleagues Gemma Short and Catriona Moy as the babies initially need feeding every two hours, day and night.

They are planning to introduce them to rice as the first step to weaning.

Samantha said: “We are now feeding them every three hours with a longer break overnight.

“We are sharing the care so they don’t get attached to one of us as the aim is to reintroduce them to their mum and dad; eventually we hope they will also become part of the international breeding programme.”

The fennec fox is the smallest member of the fox family.

They reach a maximum length of under 40cm and weigh less than two kilograms.

According to National Geographic, Fennec foxes dwell in the sandy Sahara and elsewhere in North Africa.

Their nocturnal habits help them deal with the searing heat of the desert environment, and some physical adaptations help as well.

Their distinctive ears radiate body heat and help keep the animals cool.

It is the second litter for Zuri and dad Enzi.

Their first kits died within 24 hours as although Zuri produced the vital colostrum needed, there appeared not to be enough milk for the babies.

Catriona, Team Manager of Animal Adventure and Lakes at Longleat, said: “After she lost the first three, we spent time preparing for the possibility of a further litter. We wanted to ensure that knowing she may not produce enough milk that we had everything in place in case it was required to help Zuri care for the young.

“Hand rearing is always a last resort.

“When cameras in the den showed Zuri had given birth to three kits, we watched closely so not to disturb her.

“Zuri showed good mothering behaviours; however, it then became clear she was struggling with all three. This combined with previous history led us to make the difficult decision to remove two to give mum the best chance to successfully raise a kit.

“Unfortunately, despite Zuri’s best effort, sadly the kit that remained with her passed away.”

In the summer the plan is to reintroduce them to mum and dad as their birth is important for the European breeding programme as with the new pairing of Zuri and Enzi, the blood line is not represented elsewhere in the UK.

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