It’s always great news when a new animal is born at the zoo, especially when it is a member of an at-risk species. Every new birth is a step towards repopulating the species and ensuring their survival for generations to come.
That’s especially true for giant pandas. They are one of the most famously vulnerable species, but it’s also famously difficult to get them to breed, as they can be finicky and the females have a short fertility period lasting only 24-72 hours a year.
But recently, one Japanese zoo welcomed not just one, but two baby pandas into the world.
The Ueno Zoo, the oldest zoo in Tokyo, Japan, celebrated good news this week after giant panda Shin Shin gave birth to twin cubs, the first born at the zoo in four years, and their first ever set of panda twins.
The father is 15-year-old male Ri Ri, according to the New York Times. The couple have a daughter named Xiang Xiang, who was born in 2017.
The sex of the twins is unknown, and currently they look like tiny pink worms as pandas do in their infancy, but their birth has already set off a lot of excitement in Tokyo.
“When the first one was born, I was relieved,” zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said in a news conference this morning, per the Times. “When I received a report about the second one, I was shocked and extremely happy.”
Panda twins are rare, as the mother will usually only care for one and abandon the other. But the zoo is taking precautions to make sure Shin Shin gives both cubs some love.
“We will be making sure the mother panda will breastfeed one while we keep the other in the incubator,” zoo spokesperson Naoya Ohashi said, according to BBC.
Any new panda birth is good news, but two is even better. While great pandas are no longer considered endangered, they are still listed as vulnerable. There are currently 1,864 in the wild due to “severe threats from humans,” according to WWF.
It’s also great news for the zoo: pandas are so popular that news of Shin Shin’s pregnancy reportedly caused prices in nearby restaurants to go up.
It’ll take some time before these newborn panda cubs will be out and on display, but they’re sure to delight visitors.
Congrats to Shin Shin on giving birth to twin cubs! We can’t wait to see these newborn pandas grow up!