A zoo in Israel is celebrating the birth of three beautiful rare sand kittens, believed to be almost extinct in the region.
Keepers at Ramat Gan Safari Park, near Tel Aviv, carried out an intensive search to find a suitable male partner for its sole female sand cat, Rotem, after their only male cat died.
See more cute animal pictures here
Eventually a three-year-old potential partner was brought in from a zoo in Sweden, but the cats ignored each other and their relationship did not seem to flourish.
Zookeepers did not expect them to reproduce, but the cats were allowed to stay together - an unusual practice because sand cats have a tendency to fight.
Then, one morning three weeks ago, workers arrived at the zoo and were amazed to discover three tiny kittens in a burrow in the enclosure.
"Rotem has given birth, and is already devotedly caring for her kittens," said a zoo statement.
One zoo worker said: "The new babies are really a big surprise for us... We didn't see any mating or any interaction going on between the parents."
See also: Baby meercats born at Edinburgh zoo: see the photos
The wild desert cat was originally considered extinct in Israel. They live mainly in the deserts of Asia and Africa, and about 200 sand cats exist in European zoos.
There have been many attempts to breed them and reintroduce them into the wild, according to the zoo.
"Since they used to live in Israel in the past, their importance to the Safari staff is even greater," the zoo statement said.
Pictures: Three tiny kittens rescued from Miami airport ceiling
Baby panda in China waves to the camera - TOO CUTE