KEEPERS at West Midland Safari Park are celebrating the birth of three tiny chinchilla babies.

The long-tailed chinchilla youngsters, known as kits, were born to first-time parents Gladys and Julian, who can normally be seen in the park’s Friendly Animal Encounters and Safari Academy classroom sessions.

Keepers suspected that Gladys may have been pregnant as she was putting on a lot of weight. After they had alerted the park’s veterinary team to their suspicions, the vet confirmed Gladys was pregnant and promptly put her on ‘maternity leave’.

During their afternoon rounds on June 1, park staff were excited to find the three newborns - no bigger than a ping pong ball - cuddled up with their mum.

The trio, made up of two boys and a girl, have been named Hodor, Hercules and Helena.

Head keeper of the Discovery Trail, Amy Sewell, said, “We are over the moon that they have become first-time parents to three incredibly cute kits.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"Gladys is doing a great job of looking after all three, which is a hard task, as the kits are already exploring their surroundings.”

Amy added: “Unlike a lot of mammal species, the kits are born almost as tiny replicas of their parents, with their eyes open, a full coat of fur and are very mobile.

"Although they rely on mum’s milk for the first few days, ours are already on solids.

"Their birth is great news for us as their wild counterparts in South America are currently classed as endangered, with the population declining by 90 per cent in the last 15 years.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

“Gladys is currently on maternity leave, but Julian can still be seen at the new purpose-built animal encounter stage, which provides a great opportunity to educate our guests about these incredible animals during our daily talks."

The chinchilla kits are another addition to the Park’s recent baby boom, with the appearance of three dhole pups in March, two penguin chicks in May and a Persian fallow deer fawn in June.

Long-tailed chinchillas have been threatened for years by human activities such as poaching, hunting, the pet trade and their habitats being used for mining and grazing by domestic cattle and goats.