STAFF at Knowsley Safari Park have been delighted at the arrival of a litter of young bush dogs.

The pups are the first offspring of parents Simon and Lola, who were coupled up at Knowsley last September after a new natural habitat was created for them to breed and thrive.

The South American bush dog is the world's smallest pack hunting dog species and, while capable of bringing down animals many times their own size, Simon and Lola have been demonstrating the species' tender side as they care for the new babies.

The species has been classified as near threatened due to human developments impacting their environment.

The foot safari area of the park was chosen as a new home for bush dogs because of its large pond and flowing water, which the new arrivals will be quick to explore.

The pups were born in May and mum and dad have been keeping them close by to nurse them ahead of introducing them to their wetland habitat.

Keepers set up camera traps in order to catch a glimpse of the babies and their patience was rewarded with footage of them exploring the area.

During the first few weeks after birth, the animal care team have been extra vigilant to try and spot the pups away from the burrow. One video even shows mum carrying a baby by the neck and quickly heading back to collect another which can be heard calling.

Andrew Doyle, a foot safari team leader at Knowsley, said: “The pups are doing great and Lola is an extremely attentive mother.

"You can see her guiding the pups around their new home and showing them where they can and can’t go - she’s very protective and likes to keep them close by at all times which is very sweet to watch.

“At just seven weeks old, it’s a little early to identify personalities or characters but we enjoy watching how mum and dad get to grips with being parents for the first time.”

Although belonging to the dog family, the animals look much more like otters or bears in appearance, with webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers and incredibly cute.

Visitors can view the newborn pups from a variety of specially created viewpoints including footpaths, a raised children’s platform and large glass viewing panels.

Knowsley’s team has also created signage that tell the story of the bush dogs, their role in the ecosystem, the threat from humans in the wild and help visitors understand the unique characteristics of these fascinating animals.