Just a month before the start of thein Japan, the country is celebrating another exciting occasion. A has given birth to tiny twin cubs at a Japanese zoo — a joyous moment for the conservation of the vulnerable species.
On Wednesday, 15-year-old giant panda Shin Shin gave birth to two cubs. It has been about 4 years since she last mated with her 15-year-old male partner Ri Ri, and the most recent birth marks the first time that twins have been born at the zoo.
The twins were born just after midnight, about an hour and a half apart. One weighed close to four and a half ounces, but the weight of the other is still unknown, as is the sex of both pandas.
The cubs have not yet been named. They join their big sister, Xiang Xiang, born in 2017.
"Baby giant pandas are very small when they're born, so the staff will be watching over them around the clock for a while to make sure they will be growing healthily," zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said during a news conference.
Pandas are, both in the wild and in captivity, as the females enter heat only once a year and can be picky about their partners. They are currently classified as "vulnerable," with only a few thousand remaining, but have been the subject of rigorous conservation efforts for years.
"All the staff are working together to observe and protect the giant panda mother and children," the Ueno Zoo, the oldest in Japan, said in a statement.
It is unusual for giant pandas to care for two cubs at once, so the zoo has kept one of the newborns in an incubator. When the other one finishes feeding, they will swap places.
"It is said that in most cases, when twins are born, only one will grow up. In order to raise both of them, we need to have one panda always be held by Shin Shin. We will have them take turns to nurse while the other one will be in an incubator," said the zoo's spokesperson Naoya Ohashi.
"Once one panda finishes nursing, we will place that one in the incubator, and let the one who hasn't nursed yet be together with Shin Shin. We need to watch the feeding times for the pandas and perform this work around the clock for a few months. I believe this is the most difficult part."