The Giant Panda twins at Schönbrunn Zoo are 18 days old and keepers report they are developing splendidly.
Mother Yang Yang is confident and relaxed in her care of the two young ones. Staff daily observes her (via a den camera) suckling them, cleaning them and keeping them warm. The babies also get more and more active every day. “The young Pandas stretch, wave their little paws in the air, and make first tentative efforts to crawl on their mother’s tummy,” explains the zoo’s director, Dagmar Schratter. Their pink tinge is also increasingly being replaced by black and white fur, resulting in their looking more like miniature Pandas every day.
The next big step in the development of the Panda twins is the formation of their auditory senses, which takes place at about five weeks of age. On top of this, the young animals are still blind and will only open their eyes when they are approximately 40 days old. It will be the end of the year before they can really crawl and leave the breeding box.
As we previously shared, the Panda mother will rear her babies in their breeding box, behind the scenes, which is out of sight of Schönbrunn 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/ …YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/thezoovienna … 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.