A giant panda was born at the Vienna zoo on Wednesday by natural conception. The natural process is rare, as most female pandas are impregnated by artificial insemination.
The newborn cub arrived on Wednesday and measures about four inches. He also weighs about 3.5 ounces, though zoo officials have yet to handle it to make sure.
The Schoenbrunn zoo released the birth announcement, explaining that “no other European zoo has up to now succeeded” in natural conception with the giant panda, reports Phys.org.
While the birth was celebrated, it has also put zoo officials on edge. Zoo director Dagmar Schratter explained that the zoo was rejoicing, but “must remain realistic.”
That is because the mortality rate for giant pandas in their first year of life is 40 percent, even in zoos where they have the best possible chance of survival.
The Vienna zoo has been able to bring three pandas into the world through natural conception. The first, Fu Long, was born in 2007 and became a major attraction. His brother debuted three years later.
Much like before, officials have no idea whether the baby giant panda is a boy or a girl, reports Reuters. Keepers are avoiding entering the breeding box where the birth took place, because they don’t want to disturb mother and child.
Giant pandas are one of the world’s most endangered species. There are an estimated 1,600 left in the wild and 300 currently in captivity around the world.
Even the captive ones are still the property of China, and as a result, all baby pandas return to the country when they are two and are released back to the wild.
The baby panda at the Vienna zoo was born to Yang Yang and her mate, Long Hui. The birth is incredibly rare, because female pandas are only able to conceive for two or three days in the spring. The gestation period is about five months.
While the baby giant panda is only four inches long, he or she will grow quickly.