Panchaman and Biyan-lion cubs who were rejected by their mother soon after their birth in October last—are celebrating their first birthday at the Thiruvananthapuram zoo on Thursday.

They were reared by the zoo vet Joe Jacob Sebastian and are now housed in a special enclosure inside the zoo hospital. The frisky ‘birthday boys’ would be, during the course of the day treated to boneless chicken.

Initially zoo officials thought that the two cubs were female and named them Panchami and Biya. “Some time later when we realised that these two were male we made a slight alteration in the names,” quipped Dr. Sebastian.

The cubs were born to the Ayush-Aishwarya pair who were brought over from the Chennai zoo on May 23, 2005. Soon after giving birth on October 15, 2008, Aishwarya rejected one cub. A few days later she stopped nursing the second cub too. According to Dr. Sebastian the proximity of the male was, in all probability, the cause for this.

The attempt, in October 2008, by zoo officials to distract Ayush by introducing a lioness into his enclosure ended in tragedy when the male pounced on the female and ripped her throat apart.

A couple of days ago animal keepers shifted Ayush to the old carnivore cage inside zoo after they suspected Aishwarya of being pregnant again.

The zoo has two lions and three lionesses in addition to the cubs. All these animals are Asiatic-African hybrids; the Central Zoo Authority has made it clear to zoos in the country that it is not in favour of allowing such animals to breed.