Three newborn lion cubs at Indore zoo died within hours of birth when their mother, Megha, picked them up by the flesh rather than the skin around their necks.
Zoo officials said the deaths occurred due to injuries caused to the neck and thoracic region by the lioness' teeth.
The dead cubs, two male and one female, were discovered by zookeepers who went in to clean the cage, said veterinarian Dr Akhilesh Upadhayaya. He said normally lionesses, and tigresses, pick up young cubs by the skin around the neck while carrying them around.
"However, in the case of inexperienced, first-time mothers the cubs sometimes slip and in an attempt get a better grip they accidentally sink their teeth into the flesh causing injuries which can be fatal. That's what happened in this case," the veterinarian said.
A post-mortem examination conducted by deputy director (Disease Investigation) Dr NR Khire revealed two of the cubs had fractured ribs while one had neck injuries.
"All three had lung injuries and internal bleeding," Dr Upadhyaya told Hindustan Times.
This is the second incident when a newborn cub has been killed by its mother's teeth. A tiger cub died in a similar fashion a couple of years ago.