It's not often that reindeer give birth to healthy twins, but it just happened at the Cairngorm Reindeer Center in Scotland.
Lulu, a 12-year-old reindeer and member of the only free-roaming herd of reindeer in Scotland's Cairngorm Mountains, gave birth to the twins on May 8. Human handlers at the center, who keep an eye on the reindeer, were surprised to find that Lulu had twins with her. The center had had twins before, but the babies had either been stillborn or died less than a day after being born.
"Twins are rare in reindeer because it is a race for the mother to get the calf to a good enough size to survive the harsh winter conditions in their natural environment, which can involve months of cold temperatures and deep snow," a spokesperson with the center told MNN in an email.
"When twins are born, they are considerably smaller, so have a much harder journey to get big enough in time. There is also a much greater chance of one being left behind as the mother struggles to 'keep track' of two."
Workers at the center are doing what they can to keep Lulu and her baby reindeer healthy. The infants are feeding from Lulu on their own, but human keepers are helping them get the extra milk they need using bottles since Lulu likely can't produce enough on her own. For her part, Lulu is getting extra feed.
As the center noted in a press release, summer is a critical time for the twins. Biting insects can transmit diseases to the little ones, which will be more susceptible to illness for the next six months or so.
The only other known case of a live twin birth happened in Finland in 2010, so the Scottish herders are keeping their fingers crossed, but they're feeling optimistic about the twins' chances.
"Every time I see them it makes me really proud, especially seeing their progress," Fiona Smith, one of the center's herders and the one who discovered the twins, said in the statement. "For twins to be born alive is extraordinary. They have a long way to go, but their first couple of weeks have been promising."
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