National Zoo says panda has twins In this photo provided by the Smithsonian's National Zoo, one of the giant panda cubs is examined by veterinarians after being born at Smithsonian's National Zoo on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Washington. The National Zoo in Washington says its adult female panda has had twins. (Becky Malinsky/Smithsonian's National Zoo via AP / Reuters)
National Zoo says panda has twins
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Please note the update from the National Zoo at the bottom of this article.

It's double trouble for the National Zoo after its adult female panda gave birth to twins.
 
The cubs arrived about five hours apart Saturday (Aug. 22). Panda mom Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to the first cub at 5:35 p.m. and a second at 10:07 p.m., the zoo said. If the cubs survive, they would be the 17-year-old panda's third and fourth surviving offspring.
 
Mei Xiang's first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005 and returned to China in 2010. Her second cub, Bao Bao, turned 2 years old Sunday and still lives at the zoo, which is in Washington.
 
The new additions mean that for the first time, the zoo has five pandas in residence. In addition to Bao Bao, Mei Xiang and the new cubs, the zoo is also home to an adult male panda named Tian Tian. In the past, the zoo has never had more than three pandas at one time.
 
Zoo director Dennis Kelly said following the first cub's birth that he was "so happy, so pleased, so excited." The zoo's chief veterinarian Don Neiffer was also asked about the possibility of a second cub. In 2013, when Mei Xiang gave birth to Bao Bao, she also gave birth to a stillborn cub. Neiffer said that during an ultrasound earlier in the week, he did see "two areas that made me excited."
 
The zoo says after the second cub was born, keepers removed one of the cubs and moved it to an incubator. The zoo says it will alternately swap the cubs. That will allow one the time to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other is bottle-fed. The zoo said it could not confirm whether the cub that was removed was the first or second born. It says pandas give birth to twins about 50 percent of the time, but this is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.
 
Keepers will be watching the newest cubs closely. Pink, hairless and blind, newborn cubs weigh three to five ounces and are about the size of a stick of butter.
 
Kelly, the zoo director, called it a "very fragile time."
 
"We're very excited, but we're very cautious," he said before the second cub's birth, noting that in 2012, Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub that died after just six days. Its lungs hadn't fully developed.
 
Still, Neiffer, the zoo's chief veterinarian, said the first cub had shown "all signs of being healthy and happy." Keepers have heard it squeal and grunt. The zoo said on Twitter that the second cub also appeared healthy.
 
Even if the new cubs are physically fit, panda fans shouldn't expect to see them in person for a while. After Bao Bao was born in 2013, it was about 5 months before she made her public debut. Fans who want to see the newest pandas will have to try to catch a glimpse of them on the zoo's online panda cameras. Though the zoo's camera-viewing site can host about 850 viewers at a time, spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson says the site has been overloaded with people trying to watch. Fans can also download a zoo app to view the cameras.
 
The public also won't learn immediately whether the cubs are male or female or whether the zoo's male panda, Tian Tian, is the cub's father. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated with sperm from Tian Tian and a panda named Hui Hui from Wolong, China, who was determined to be one of the best genetic matches.
 
The zoo will use saliva from the cubs' mouths to determine gender and paternity, said Laurie Thompson, a giant panda biologist at the zoo.
 
The National Zoo is one of only four zoos nationwide to have pandas, which are on loan from China, and its cubs are the only ones born in the United States this year. Pandas also have a history at the National Zoo that makes them closely watched.
 
The zoo's first pair of pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were a gift from China following President Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit to the country. The pair had five cubs while living at the zoo but none survived.
 
The zoo's current pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the parents of both Bao Bao and Tai Shan, arrived in 2000. The pandas belong to China as do any cubs they have.
 
The cubs' birth wasn't the only event being celebrated at the zoo. For Bao Bao's second birthday, she received a cake made out of frozen fruits and vegetables with the number "2'' on top. She will stay at the zoo until she is four years old when she will return to China.

Update from Smithsonian National Zoo (August 26th):

The smaller of the two giant panda cubs born at the Smithsonian's National Zoo has died. 

Giant pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time. This is only the third time a giant panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.
  
At the birth of the second cub on August 22, Mei Xiang demonstrated that she was challenged to care for both cubs. The collective scientific knowledge about giant panda mothers is that they are best able to care for one cub at a time.

Per protocol, the panda team alternately swapped the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang while the other was bottle fed and kept warm in an incubator. The primary goal for the panda team was for both cubs to have the benefit of nursing and spending time with their mother. 

The panda team continues to monitor Mei Xiang and the larger cub via the Panda Cams. They are encouraged that this cub appears to be strong and robust, and that it is behaving normally. 

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are officials being cautious?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • zionc-sto
    8/28/2015 - 02:01 p.m.

    The baby pandas could still die. This is a very fragile time in their lives.

  • zionc-sto
    8/28/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    This is a very fragile time in the cubs' lives. They could still die.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    9/01/2015 - 01:12 p.m.

    The staff is still being cautious because this particular panda has given birth to unhealthy cubs in the past and they're still in the waiting stage even though the cub that survived seems healthy. The past deaths and the death of one of the twins makes them worry about the health of the surviving cub.

  • sierrab-ste
    9/02/2015 - 09:02 a.m.

    It's really cool that this is only the third giant panda living in the United States that has given birth to twins. It's also helpful that the panda team is making sure that both cubs can get to spend time with the mother since she's not able to care for both at one time.

  • whittaker,alyncia-cas
    9/02/2015 - 06:24 p.m.

    It's wonderful to see the pandas happy and healthy. Hearing that panda cubs were born, since not many are born and even less survive. It's sad that one of the cubs passed, poor thing, but at least its sibling is alive and strong.

  • ethans-bro
    9/03/2015 - 10:12 a.m.

    Did it learn to sneeze glitter yet?

  • andrew-hab
    9/03/2015 - 11:05 a.m.

    I think that these panda twins are really cool. I did not know that female pandas could have twins. So, this is unusual to me.

  • matt-1-hab
    9/03/2015 - 12:20 p.m.

    So I think that the panda is adorable, but my question is what is it going to be like in a few years. My question is it going to die within a week or so? Or is the mom going to feed the cubs.

  • lukes2-mil
    10/01/2015 - 04:16 p.m.

    national zoo says panda has twins.I think this is cool because i am pretty sure that there isn't that much of pandas that have twins. The people that work there must be amazed since that is rare. If I worked there and was the first one to see the twins I would be confused at first then once I would realize how cool that would be. They look scary when born because they are so small and have no hair so they are pink.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/16/2016 - 12:10 a.m.

    The zoo might have been able to get a mother panda to be able to give birth to twins which is the third time that the pandas are able to give birth to twins which would soon make an offspring of giant pandas. The zoo might have been waiting for the moment for the giant panda mother to be giving birth to twins which people might have been seeing the panda population to be growing. The people might have been expecting to be seeing the birth of the giant panda twins which people had been expecting to be happening after the birth of the first cub before the second cub. People might have been seeing the giant pandas to be giving birth making the panda population to be rising from being very close to being extincted.
    Critical Thinking Question:Why are officials being cautious?
    Answer: Because when the one of the cubs were born, it died after six days because its lungs didn't fully develop before the birth.

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