On June 20, China welcomed the first pair of panda twins of 2016 into the world.
Their mother is a six-year-old giant panda named Ya Li, and the twins are her first offspring. The healthy female cubs were born at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan province in southern China.
“The twins are quite healthy, their voices are quite clear, relatively speaking their fur and physical traits are all quite healthy,” said one of the cubs’ feeders, Tang Juwen, according to Reuters.
The sisters, who have not yet been named, weighed 144 g and 113 g at birth. For now the tiny, pink cubs covered with sparse white fur are being kept in an incubator and taken out for periodic feedings. Their mother Ya Li was a twin herself, born at the Chengdu base in 2009.
Pandas have notoriously low libidos and have traditionally struggled to breed in captivity, but through extensive research and scientists developing a better understanding of their needs, techniques are improving. Researchers closely monitor female pandas ovulation cycles and sometimes use sperm from two males to increase the odds of successful insemination, according to The Star. Seven pandas were born at the Chengdu base in 2015.
A visit to the Chengdu base and the other panda conservation installations in the area at Dujiangyan is an incredible part of any wildlife safari in China. These research and conservation facilities guarantee closer interactions with pandas and offer opportunities to learn about the work being done to save them. The Wild Panda Nature Reserve in the Minshan Mountains is another important place for travelers to attempt to see and photograph giant pandas in the wild. Nat Hab’s tours of China take guests to all of these crucial places to learn about pandas and increase the chances of seeing them in their natural habitat.
Giant pandas are critically endangered due to human encroachment on the highlands where they live and survive on a diet comprised almost exclusively of bamboo. Thanks to conservation initiatives the number of pandas in the wild has increased almost 17% since 2003.
The Chinese State Forestry Administration found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in the Fourth National Giant Panda Survey, conducted from 2010-2014.Based on this population increase the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is considering whether pandas should be downgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” China has 422 giant pandas living in captivity and hopes to increase that number to 500 by 2020 to ensure sufficient genetic diversity in the captive population, according to the official Xinhua news agency.