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Lioness gives birth to mixed-species litter

The birth of new baby animals at a zoo is always a cause to celebrate, but the litter delivered by a lioness at a zoo in China was particularly interesting. The lioness, which had mated with a tiger, gave birth to two tigons and one purebred lion in the same litter, The Huffington Post reports.

Ligers and tigons, the product of interpecies breeding of tigers and lions, are becoming rather common in captivity, but these large cats almost never breed in the wild because they rarely meet. However, the birth of a purebred lion among two mixed-species cats is a world first, the news outlet reports.

Ligers are the offspring of a female tiger and a male lion, while tigons are the product of a lionness and male tiger.

According to PBS, ligers and tigons are an "evolutionary dead end," because they are generally sterile and short-lived. While the breeding of tigers and lions does not do much to boost each individual species, captive breeding of each respective cat does.

The Bengal tiger is the largest member of the cat family and is endangered, and there are more in captivity than there are in the wild. African lions are vulnerable, and there is a need to help animals like these large cats, National Geographic reports. 
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