Giant panda gives birth to twins at Zoo Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP) — A giant panda named Lun Lun gave birth at Zoo Atlanta to two cubs, the first twin pandas born in the United States since 1987, zoo spokeswoman Keisha Hines announced.
The 15-year-old panda gave birth Monday. Hines said zookeepers who had been anticipating only one cub based on a recent ultrasound were surprised.
There was no immediate report on the size or gender of the cubs, nor on their condition or that of their mother.
Giant pandas typically only care for one cub when twins are born in the wild — which usually leads to only one of the twins surviving, Hines noted.
Zookeepers said Lun Lun was caring for one of the cubs while animal management and veterinary teams cared for the other in a nursery center. Officials said they will likely rotate the cubs to ensure each gets enough maternal nurturing.
Zoo officials were working with animal care workers from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, where Lun Lun and her partner, Yang Yang, were born.
“This is a success we share with all of our fellow zoological organizations working to understand and protect this iconic species, and we share our joy with our local community and with our colleagues in China,” said Raymond B. King, Zoo Atlanta’s president and CEO.
Hines said giant pandas have a high mortality rate in the first few months after birth, and the risk is greater when twins are born.
Lun Lun had been artificially inseminated in March and has been under 24-hour observation by a camera providing a live video feed from her den.
Visitors will likely be able to visit the cubs later this year, Hines said.
She added that Yang Yang and the cubs’ older brothers — Xi Lan, 4, and Po, 2 — remain on exhibit and will not be housed with Lun Lun or the cubs. The separation is normal and occurs naturally in the wild, Hines said.
Less than 1,600 giant pandas are believed to be living in the wild, Hines said.