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Schönbrunn Zoo celebrates 'ugly' babies

The Local · 23 Oct 2014, 11:15

Published: 23 Oct 2014 11:15 GMT+02:00

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Their mother is the queen of the naked mole-rat colony in the zoo’s Desert House.

The animals are native to parts of East Africa and have adapted to live in a harsh underground environment.

They have no fur, but have whiskers on their nose and tail to help them navigate dark underground tunnels.

The queen is the only female in the colony that breeds and her offspring devote their lives either to protecting the colony or digging burrows with their powerful incisors.

Naked mole-rats can live for over 30 years. Unlike most other mammals they can't maintain a steady body temperature, and are essentially cold-blooded.

The curious creatures are of particular interest to scientists as they never get cancer and could hold the key to preventing or treating malignant tumours.

The Schönbrunn colony has a new 70 metre glass maze in the Desert House, designed to mimic the underground cave system that is their natural habitat in Africa. 

Visitors will be able to observe the babies, who were born at the end of August and are already eating tubers and root vegetables. 

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