Two snow leopard cubs have been welcomed by a zoo a month after their planned introduction was halted by the coronavirus lockdown.
The females have been given a new home at Northumberland Country Zoo after spending the first 15 months of their lives at a wildlife park in Scotland.
Their arrival was put back until this week after the national lockdown in England was announced on 31 October.
Curator Maxine Bradley described the cats as “stunning”.
With zoos in England having to close from 5 November, it was decided the cubs would remain north of the border and themed events on 7 and 8 November intended to mark their arrival in the North East were postponed.
They finally travelled south to Felton, near Morpeth, on Tuesday ahead of the zoo’s reopening later.
Ms Bradley said bosses hoped to name the animals soon, having used “the extra four weeks to make sure everything was ready for them” in their purpose-built enclosure.
She described their arrival as “quite possibly the most exciting Christmas delivery” the zoo has had.
“Snow leopards are renowned for being highly elusive in the wild, so we’re truly privileged to have them here.
“They’re our first big cats and there’s nothing like them in this area.”
The themed events have been rescheduled for this weekend, although the zoo will operate at a reduced capacity with ticketing in place.
Keith Gilchrist, animal collections manager at Highland Wildlife Park, near Aviemore, said: “It has been an incredible year watching our snow leopard cubs grow and they will be missed by everyone here at the park.”
Snow leopards’ native surroundings are the mountain ranges of Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Pakistan and India.
With many having been killed by poachers, it is estimated there are fewer than 10,000 in the wild.