A private zoo in Taiwan has become the first on the island to see the birth of "ligers," hybrids of lions and tigresses, with the owner facing a fine for violating wildlife rules, officials said Monday.

The three cubs were born Sunday at the "World Snake King Education Farm" in the south, but one of them died almost immediately, the farm's owner Huang Kuo-nan told AFP.

"The pregnancy of the tigress caught me totally unprepared," Huang said. "The lion and the tigress have been kept in the same cage since they were cubs more than six years ago, and nothing happened."

But the Tainan county government said Huang will face a fine of up to 50,000 Taiwan dollars (1,600 U.S. dollars) for breeding wildlife without prior approval from the authorities.

According to the Taipei-based Apple Daily, there are only around 10 surviving ligers in the world, with adult ligers capable of growing much larger than average lions.

Copyright 2010 AFP Asian Edition

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