Twin joy as Tokyo panda gives birth to two cubs

2021-06-23 16:40:39 GMT2021-06-24 00:40:39(Beijing Time) Sina English

A panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo gave birth to twins yesterday. They were born in the early hours, the zoo said in a statement, adding it had not yet confirmed the sex of the pair.

Zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said the twin birth was a first for the Ueno facility.

"When I heard the news that the second baby was born, I couldn't help but whoop," he told reporters.

One of the cubs, weighing in at 124 grams, was placed in an incubator, zoo spokesperson Naoya Ohashi said in a press conference later.

The mother panda "is in good health, and carefully looking after the other baby," he added.

"When pandas have twins, they usually only raise one, so we will be making sure the mother panda will breastfeed one while we keep the other in the incubator," Ohashi said.

Zookeepers will be swapping the babies so that both cubs experience natural feeding.

And even the government weighed in, with spokesperson Katsunobu Kato calling the birth of the cubs "cheerful news" and inviting "all of Japan to watch over them."

Zookeepers had been on alert for a possible pregnancy after Shin Shin and partner Ri Ri mated in early March.

The pair are also parents of a female panda, Xiang Xiang, who was born in June 2017 and became a massive draw for the zoo. She was scheduled to be repatriated to China two years after her birth, but Japanese officials negotiated to extend her stay until the end of this year. Japanese media have been offering regular updates on the Ueno pandas, which in non-pandemic times draw huge crowds.

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild, mainly in bamboo forests in the mountains of China, according to environmental group WWF. Around 600 more live in zoos and breeding centers around the world.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies giant pandas as "vulnerable."

And a newborn in Washington DC has enthralled Americans since its birth in August 2020, with over a million people tuning in on a "Panda Cam" to watch Xiao Qi Ji – Little Miracle.