On August 7th, not just one…but…two Giant Pandas were born at Schönbrunn Zoo!
Dagmar Schratter, Schönbrunn Zoo’s Director, remarked, “As we believe in natural rearing, we will simply be watching via camera what is happening in the breeding box. It had sounded as if there were two young animals squeaking, but the pictures only ever showed one. On Friday [August 5th], the keepers could see two babies on the screen for the first time.”
According to the Zoo, it happens quite often that Giant Pandas give birth to twins, but the mother usually only rears the stronger of the two. However, after the first few days, the two young offspring seem to be developing very well. Nevertheless, the survival rate for Pandas, in their first few weeks of life, is only by 50 percent. This is why according to Chinese tradition names are only given after 100 days of life.
Zoologist, Eveline Dungl, said, “Both little Pandas have fat little tummies, and Panda mother Yang Yang is totally relaxed”. The experienced mom cares lovingly for her babies and cleans and feeds the twins (with their estimated length of 15 centimeters).
Dungl added, “The little ones can be rarely seen on the pictures because Yang Yang warms them between her large paws most of the time. Their fluff gets more every day, and one can already make out the black and white marking. The sound of their contented noises, when they are being suckled or cleaned, can be heard quite clearly over the speaker.” The keepers watch the rearing round the clock via the box camera.
For now, the Panda mother will rear her babies in the breeding box, behind the scenes, which is out of sight of Zoo visitors. At about four months old, the young Pandas will make their first excursions to the indoor enclosure where the visitors will be able to watch them. The Zoo will do its best to keep Panda fans all over the world informed: at regular intervals, videos from the breeding box will be published on Schönbrunn Zoo’s website: https://www.zoovienna.at/ and other social media pages. There is also a public video screen in the Zoo that allows visitors to peek in on the new family.
The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) also known as “panda bear” or simply “panda, is a bear native to south central China. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda's diet is over 99% bamboo. Giant Pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion. In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.
The Giant Panda is native to a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in neighboring provinces (Shaanxi and Gansu). As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived. It is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
Giant Pandas give birth to twins in about half of pregnancies, and generally, only one twin will survive. The mother will select the stronger of the cubs, and the weaker will die. Experts believe that the mother is unable to produce enough milk for two cubs, since she does not store fat. (The father has no part in helping raise the cub.)
When the cub is first born, it is pink, blind, and toothless, weighing only 90 to 130 grams (3.2 to 4.6 ounces). It nurses from its mother's breast six to 14 times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. For three to four hours, the mother may leave the den to feed, which leaves the cub defenseless. One to two weeks after birth, the cub's skin turns gray where its hair will eventually become black. A slight pink color may appear on cub's fur, as a result of a chemical reaction between the fur and its mother's saliva. A month after birth, the color pattern of the cub's fur is fully developed. Its fur is very soft and coarsens with age.
The cub begins to crawl at 75 to 80 days of age. The cubs can eat small quantities of bamboo after six months, though mother's milk remains the primary food source for most of the first year. Giant Panda cubs weigh 45 kg (100 pounds) at one year, and live with their mothers until they are 18 months to two years old. The interval between births in the wild is generally two years.