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Twins Are a Handful for Zoo Atlanta's Giant Panda Mom


Zoo Atlanta's Lun Lun, a 15-year-old Giant Panda, gave birth to twins on July 15. The cubs are the first Giant Pandas to be born in the U.S. in 2013 as well as the first twins to be born in the U.S. since 1987.

Lun Lun is an experienced and capable mother, but she has never before given birth to twins, which are not unusual in her species. Zoo staff are caring for one of the cubs in the nursery unit in the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Center, while Lun Lun is currently caring for the other cub. Assisting Zoo Atlanta staff is an animal care colleague from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where mom Lun Lun and father Yang Yang were born. Zoo Staff may rotate the cubs’ time with the mother, to ensure that both receive an equal share of maternal care without overexerting Lun Lun. You might be able to sneak a peek of Lun Lun with a cub through Zoo Atlanta's live Panda Cam.   



Photo credits: Zoo Atlanta

Watch a video of the twins' birth: 
Take a look inside the incubator:


In the wild, Giant Panda mothers typically care for only one cub when twins are born. Thus, it is normal in the wild for only one of the twins to survive. Giant Panda twins have survived in zoos within and outside of China. Usually this is accomplished by rotating the cubs with the mother for the first few months. However, Giant Pandas are born very tiny, and there is a high risk of mortality in the first few months. This risk increases in twins, which tend to have lower birth weights than do single cubs.

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Fewer than 1,600 Giant Pandas are believed to remain in the wild, where funds from Zoo Atlanta are used to support Giant Pandas living in eight different nature reserves in China. In 2012, Zoo Atlanta received the distinguished International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for its long-term commitment to the species. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s twins. This is a success we share with all of our fellow zoological organizations working to understand and protect this iconic species, and we share our joy with our local community and with our colleagues in China,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “Twins are an entirely new scenario for Lun Lun, Zoo Atlanta, and our animal care teams, who will no doubt be extremely busy over the next few months.” 

The cubs will likely be out on display in late fall. The newborns’ father, 15-year-old Yang Yang, and older brothers Xi Lan, four years old, and Po, two years old, remain on exhibit and will not be housed with Lun Lun or the cubs. This separation is normal for Giant Pandas, which are solitary in the wild. 

The cubs are the fourth and fifth Giant Pandas born at Zoo Atlanta. The first cub, Mei Lan, was born in September 2006. A resident of China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding since 2010, Mei Lan was the first of the pair’s offspring to return to his parents’ native country. All five of Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s cubs have been products of artificial insemination.