Giant Panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to twins at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on August 22. The panda team witnessed the first cub’s birth at 5:35 pm. A second cub was born at 10:07pm.
A panda team of three keepers retrieved one of the cubs per the Zoo’s Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing protocol. The cub was placed in an incubator and was cared for by veterinarians and panda keepers. At this time, it has not been confirmed if the retrieved cub was the first born or second born. The retrieved cub was vocalizing very well and appeared healthy. It weighed 138 grams.
Giant Pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time. This is only the third time a Giant Panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.
The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang, while the other is being bottle fed and kept warm in an incubator. The sex of the cubs won’t be determined until a later date.
As of this morning (August 24), the zoo reports that the panda cubs are doing well, but the panda team had a challenging night. When they tried to swap the cubs at 11p.m., Mei Xiang would not set down the cub she had in her possession. Consequently, the panda team cared for the smaller cub throughout the night until 7:05 am, when they successfully swapped the cubs. The panda team supplemented the smaller cub with formula by bottle-feeding. They were concerned that the smaller cub was not getting enough volume, so they moved to tube feeding which went well and quickly. Their goal is for each cub to spend an equal amount of time with their mother. Keepers stated, the newborn cubs are vulnerable and this first week is incredibly important and the risk remains high. The panda team is doing great work, around the clock, and will continue to keep the public posted.