A giant panda has given birth to twin cubs in an “exceptional” birth at a zoo in France.
Huan Huan gave birth at around 1am on Monday morning at ZooParc de Beauval.
The female cubs – which the zoo described in a statement as “very lively, pink, and plump” – weighed just 135g and 127g respectively.
The labour was overseen by two vets from China who travelled to Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, central France, for the occasion.
“These births are always exceptional,” Delphine Delord, the zoo’s associate director, said.
Vets are helping Huan Huan in caring for her cubs, as they said it is “very common” when twin pandas are born “for the mother to take care of only the strongest and leave the other little one” – according to a translation of their post on Facebook.
When one of the cubs is with Huan Huan, the other one is wrapped in a blanket and placed in a incubator to be checked over and fed a bottle of Huan Huan’s milk.
One of the vets, who travelled from Chengdu in China, uses a spoon of honey to “distract” Huan Huan so that the other baby panda can be taken to the incubator. Huan Huan is then able to “tighten the mother/child bond” with the other cub – the post adds.
The vets also cut the umbilical cords of the cubs while they were each in the incubator, pictures show.
The breeding of pandas is notoriously difficult, but the zookeepers were excited to find that Huan Huan and partner Yuan Zi made “contact” eight times in a weekend last March, according to the AFP news agency.
Veterinarians also carried out an artificial insemination just to be sure of a conception. The window for conception is small since female pandas are in heat only once a year for about 24-48 hours. The gestation period lasts between three to five months.
Huan Huan’s newborns will not be named for 100 days. Peng Liyuan – wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping – is to choose the names, the zoo said.
Huan Huan sleeping inside her enclosure one day before giving birth
(AFP via Getty Images)
Huan Huan, who has been “on loan” from China since 2012, is already a parent to Yuan Meng, who in 2017 was the first panda to have been born in France.
Yuan Meng is to be sent this year to China, where there are about 1,800 giant pandas living in the wild and another 500 in captivity.
Last month, China said giant pandas were no longer deemed to be endangered – due to conservation efforts – but are still vulnerable.
China considers pandas a national treasure, but have also loaned them to other countries in an attempt to build diplomacy.