Two giant panda cub twins have been born to Mei Xiang at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC. Giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world and are hard to breed in captivity.
Keeping the cubs alive is now the next battle. The first cub weighed just 86.3 grams, about three ounces, and the second weighed 138 grams, just under five ounces.
Mei Xiang, the 17-year-old giant panda, is the zoo’s star attraction, and keepers only discovered she was pregnant during an ultrasound scan last week.
The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC is one of only four in the US to have pandas, which are on loan from China.
Mei Xiang has two other offspring. Female pandas are only able to conceive for two or three days a year, contributing to the low reproduction rate endangering the panda species.
Giant panda gives birth — survival of cubs down to Mei Xiang
The Panda Cam on her enclosure crashed within seconds of the birth of the first cub being announced.
“The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is one of a few zoos with expert nutritionists on staff,” the zoo said in a statement.
“They have prepared formula and trained for this scenario. Formula ingredients include: water; human baby formula and puppy formula. The ingredients are mixed together and strained to omit clumps.
“Our concern now is whether Mei Xiang will allow the panda team to consistently swap the cubs. The team developed a few different strategies and will continue to try different methods of swapping and hand-rearing. A lot will be dictated by Mei Xiang.
“The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other is being bottle fed and kept warm in an incubator. The primary goal for the panda team is for both cubs to have the benefit of nursing and spending time with their mother. It is too early to guess about when the cubs will be placed together,” the Smithsonian National Zoo said.