August 1, 2017 / 4:41 PM / 20 days ago

Panda in French zoo expecting twins, Chinese experts on hand to help

FILE PHOTO: Yuan Zi (R), a male giant panda and Huan Huan, a female giant panda, relax inside their enclosure at the ZooParc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan, central France, January 17, 2012.Benoit Tessier/File Photo

ORLEANS, France (Reuters) - A giant panda in France's Beauval zoo is expected to give birth to twins in the next few days under the watchful eye of two Chinese birthing specialists, the zoo said on Tuesday.

"We're expecting twins," said Delphine Debord, the zoo's communications director. "An ultrasound today confirmed it."

Huan Huan and her partner Yuan Zi came to France on loan from China in 2012, their arrival hailed as a sign of warming diplomatic ties between Paris and Beijing.

While an adult female panda can weigh up to 125 kilograms (275 pounds), a baby panda weighs barely 120 grams (4 ounces) at birth.

A team of 15 people, including two Chinese carers, vets and an animal behavior specialist will be on hand to assist the delicate birth at the zoo near the city of Tours. The newborns will be placed in an incubator.

"In the wild, a panda mom doesn't raise two babies," Debord said. "They will be handed to Huan Huan one after the other for feeding."

Huan Huan and Yuan Zi, whose names translate as "Joy" and "Podgy" respectively, are due to stay in France until 2022 before being returned to China. Their offspring will stay in France until the age of two or three.

Reporting by Mourad Guichard; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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