Monday marked a momentous event in panda history – Lun Lun, a 15 year-old giant panda, gave birth to twins at Zoo Atlanta. Although the twin pandas look anything but giant, they are the first to be born in the United States since 1987. The rest of the family includes father Yang Yang and brothers Xi lan, 4 and Po, 2, all of whom live at the zoo as well.
After successful artificial insemination in March, a live PandaCam, Twitter updates and a 90-minute labor, the pandas were delivered within two minutes of each other on Monday night. It is not rare for giant pandas to give birth to twins, but, sadly, it is quite rare for both twins to survive when this does occur because the mother usually only cares for one of the two. Thankfully, Zoo Atlanta has devised a plan – the mother cares for one panda while the Giant Panda Center at the zoo cares for the other; in order to ensure that each panda gets the same amount of love from mom, the cubs are periodically switched.
If you didn’t know what baby pandas looked like before, now you know that they are about the size of a stick of butter and weigh between three to five ounces. The miniscule cubs grow to be as large 250 pounds – probably a more fitting weight for a species known as the giant panda. Because the cubs do not open their eyes until they are about 6-8 weeks old and do not move around until they are about three months old, the newborns will not make their debut at the zoo until late fall.
Since pandas are currently endangered – only 1,600 pandas are believed to remain in the wild – every panda baby is important. Now that the pandas are here, you may be wondering what to call them. According to Today.com, the zoo plans to wait a few months before the cubs are officially named – so hang tight.
Watch footage of the live birth here: