Fabulous news for the Giant Panda population: Haizi, a female panda at the Wolong Nature Reserve, gave birth to healthy twin cubs on Saturday, June 22. These are the very first twin panda cubs to be born in the world this year.
Haizi, a wildborn female, mated with wildborn males Bai Yang and Yi Bao earlier this year. The mating itself was great news since most pandas have difficulty breeding in captivity. Haizi began to exhibit prenatal behavior in late May. The June birth was “early” for the panda birth season which is typically from July to September.
The first of Haizi’s cubs was born at 4:54 pm and remains with its mother. As of Sunday, she hadn’t yet released it from her embrace so the sex and weight of the cub are still unknown. Given the cub’s size and the sounds it is making all signs indicate it is healthy and doing well. As pandas are only able to care for a single cub, the second cub (a female weighing 79.2 grams born 10 minutes after the first) is being taken care of by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda staff. To put the new cubs size into perspective, they are about the size of a stick of butter, or 1/900th the size of their mother!
When twins are born in the wild, mothers will typically select the stronger of the two to nurture and the second cub dies. Thanks to advances in captive breeding programs, both cubs now have a high chance of survival. Staff members will serve as surrogate mothers to the second cub feeding and caring for the newborn. Time in the nursery is also a valuable tool for the veterinary staff to monitor the progress of the cub making sure it is developing at the proper rate.
Video of the Birth of Haizi's Twins
UPDATE: Giant panda Haizi’s twins are both female and are named Miao Miao and Xin Xin! They were named by Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration who visited the Bifengxia panda base on June 26. The twins were born in her outdoor enclosure at New Leopard Mountain – Bifengxia.
For more information about the Captive Breeding programs at Bifengxia and Wolong, visit our Captive Breeding Program Page.