While they were endangered for a long time, conservation and breeding efforts managed to elevate the Chinese giant panda to merely being a vulnerable species. By the most recent estimates of the World Wildlife Organization, there are currently around 1,864 in the wild today. Whether in the wild or captivity, giant pandas are notoriously difficult to encourage to reproduce; giant panda females only go into heat once a year, they’re extremely picky about their mates, and on certain rare occasions, some pandas go so long without reproducing that they actually forget how. It’s for all of these reasons that just a few more pandas in the world is cause for celebration.
At the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, Japan, the resident giant panda, Shin Shin, successfully gave birth to not just one, but two cubs in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. The precise weights and genders of the cubs have not yet been measured, but both are about the size of a human adult hand, and appear to be in good health.
“All the staff are working together to observe and protect the giant panda mother and children,” the zoo said in a statement on its panda website.
Shin Shin, a 15-year-old giant panda at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, has given birth to twins. ??https://t.co/iOoJo0Mgm0
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 23, 2021
Shin Shin and her partner Ri Ri have lived at the Ueno Zoo for about ten years, transported there after having been born at the Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, China. The two previously gave birth to a female cub named Xiang Xiang in 2017, who remains with them to this day. It hasn’t yet been decided when the new cubs will be on display at the zoo; Shin Shin has been out of the public eye since the zoo reopened from pandemic-induced closure at the beginning of the month to facilitate a healthy birth.
“The pandas are now a family of five. This is such happy news,” said Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato. “I believe everyone at the zoo is doing all they can day and night to keep the panda family healthy first, and I hope everyone will watch over them warmly and quietly.”