It’s a girl … and a girl!
Lun Lun the giant panda is once again the mother of twin girls. The giant panda twins born on September 3, 2016, are both female, as has been confirmed by DNA testing. The tests were done by scientists at the Center for Conservation Genomics at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
“This is always exciting news to be able to share, but what we’re most excited about is that we have two healthy, thriving giant panda twins who have almost reached the two-month mark. Our giant panda care team and Lun Lun have done a terrific job helping the cubs reach this point,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “We’re grateful to our colleagues at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute for their expertise in assisting Zoo Atlanta with the DNA results.”
The twins, now nearly 2 months old and each weighing more than 4 pounds, are the second pair of surviving giant panda cubs born in the U.S. and are the second instance of twin girls for 19-year-old Lun Lun. Both now well beyond the milestones of cub-hood, their older sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, 3, will depart Atlanta for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China on November 3, 2016.
Both sets of Atlanta-born twins play an important role in one of Zoo Atlanta’s longest-term conservation collaborations. Giant pandas represent the Zoo’s most significant financial investment in wildlife conservation, with over $10 million contributed in sustained support for wild giant pandas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the giant panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016, but the species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, where they face continuing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities. More than 1,200 of China’s remaining wild giant pandas live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.
Just as Mei Lun and Mei Huan did before them, the tiny twin panda duo will continue to introduce friends and fans all over the world to the distinctive milestones of the life of a young giant panda. Both are now covered with a coat of the species’ characteristic black-and-white fur and have begun opening their eyes and ears; future milestones will include walking.
The pair is expected to make their debut at the Zoo in December 2016 or January 2017. In accordance with the Chinese 100 Day tradition, the twins will be named on their 100th day on December 12, 2016.
The twins are the sixth and seventh offspring of Lun Lun and 19-year-old Yang Yang. Their first three offspring, male Mei Lan (born 2006), male Xi Lan (born 2008) and female Po (born 2010), now reside at the Chengdu Research Base, to be joined later this week by Mei Lun and Mei Huan (born 2013). All of the giant pandas in U.S. zoos are owned by China, and as part of Zoo Atlanta’s loan agreement with China, all of Lun Lun and Yang Yang’s offspring eventually travel to Chengdu when they are of age.
Keep track of the twins and Lun Lun on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE at zooatlanta.org/pandacam. Stay tuned for details on the naming process and festivities planned for the twins’ 100th day.
Source: Zoo Atlanta