A rare set of giant panda triplets was born at a Guangzhou, China, zoo. Although the cubs were born on July 29, zoo officials waited nearly two weeks to announce the birth. A zoo representative confirmed all three cubs are currently healthy and thriving.
As giant pandas remain critically endangered, the cubs were conceived through China’s “artificial breeding program.” The new mother, Ju Xiao, was closely monitored throughout her entire pregnancy.
As reported by ABC News, the panda triplets were born over a period of 12 hours. Following the birth, the newborn cubs were assessed and placed in an incubator. Although they have very little fur, and their eyes are sill closed, the panda cubs are moving around and holding themselves up on their arms.
The unnamed cubs are specifically rare, as they are the fourth known set of triplets born through the artificial insemination program. Survival of more than one cub is even more rare.
According to the National Zoo, giant pandas only ovulate once per year — for a period of two to three days. The mother generally carries the cubs for up to five months before giving birth. Although multiple births are not uncommon, “usually only one survives.”
Young panda cubs often spend several years with their mother. Therefore, giant pandas rarely breed more than once every two years. Female pandas remain fertile for an average of eight years. However, in the wild, “she may successfully raise only five to eight cubs.”
The World Conservation Union has included the giant panda on the Red List of Threatened Species. An estimated 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild — fewer than 400 are currently living in zoos and conservation centers worldwide.
Although they previously thrived the lowlands of Central China, giant pandas were eventually forced to migrate into the mountains. Their natural habitat is under constant threat due to deforestation.
The Guangzhou zoo’s panda triplets underline the continued success of China’s breeding program. The cubs currently weigh between 8 and 12 ounces, and are expected to survive to adulthood.
In addition to being incredibly cute, the cubs offer hope for China’s unofficial mascot. With a specific focus on endangered species, breeding programs are expected to increase populations and decrease the possibility of total extinction.
Although the panda triplets were born nearly two weeks ago, they have not been named. Zoo officials have promised to provide updates and photos as the cubs progress.
[Image via Straits Times]