Giant panda gives birth to twins at Atlanta zoo

Tue Jul 16, 2013 3:40pm EDT
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By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - A giant panda at the Atlanta zoo delivered an extra bundle of joy on Monday when she gave birth to twins, an apparent surprise to zoo officials who had been excitedly anticipating the birth of a single cub.

Lun Lun delivered the tiny, hairless duo at 6:21 p.m. and 6:23 p.m. EDT, the first giant panda cubs to be born in the United States in 2013, Zoo Atlanta officials said.

"We had no reason to expect twins, although we had not ruled them out," said Dwight Lawson, deputy director of Zoo Atlanta, adding that pandas regularly give birth to twins. "On the few ultrasound images that Mom actually cooperated with, we only saw one developing fetus."

Twin cubs have never been born at Zoo Atlanta, zoo officials said. Lun Lun has given birth to three cubs there.

Giant pandas are an endangered species that make their homes in a few mountain ranges in central China. There are about 1,600 living the wild, and about 300 in captivity, mostly in China, zoo officials said.

The sex of the cubs has not been determined yet, Lawson said. Panda cubs are about the size and weight of a stick of butter, and are pink, hairless and blind.

Lun Lun weighs more than 200 pounds (91 kg), he said. Panda babies are about 1/900th the size of their mothers, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

While pandas often give birth to twins in the wild, they are only able to raise one at a time - leaving the second twin to perish, Lawson said.   Continued...

A pair of giant panda twins born to Lun Lun are pictured at Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta in this July 15, 2013 picture provided by Zoo Atlanta. REUTERS/Zoo Atlanta/Handout via Reuters