On July 15th, something happened in the United States that hasn’t happened in 26 years. 15 year old Giant panda, Lun Lun, gave birth to twins at Zoo Atlanta.
Lun gave birth to her first baby at 6:21pm and was cuddling this first little one, when surprise, surprise, she gave birth to a second one 2 minutes later. Lun Lun’s keepers had no idea that she was pregnant with twins. An ultrasound done just a couple of days before the birth only showed one baby.
In the wild, if a panda has twins, the mother will abandon one because she is only able to care for one cub at a time. At the zoo, the keepers are keeping one baby in an incubator while Lun takes care of the other and they will swap them out every few hours. This way, they are both benefiting from Lun’s care and milk.
When giant panda cubs are born, their weight is 1/900th of their mother’s weight, making them the smallest newborn by percentage to adults in mammals (besides marsupials). Right now, the twins are about the size of a stick of butter. This makes it difficult for the mother to hold and manipulate without injuring the baby. I guess this is the reason they can only care for one cub at a time.
See more information about the birth of the twins, keep track of their progress, see a timeline of panda development and watch Lun Lun and her babies on the Panda Cam on the Zoo Atlanta website.