It’s always exciting to hear about the birth of a new baby animal, especially if it belongs to an endangered species. Each new birth represents a ray of hope for the survival of a species on the verge of extinction.
That was the case recently, after a giant panda mother gave birth to a pair of adorable newborn twins, whose arrival was heralded as a major victory for the species’ conservation efforts.
The twins, one male and one female, were born Tuesday at the Qinling Panda Research Center in Shaanxi Province, China, which aims to save the panda population by breeding them in captivity.
The mother, Qin Qin, was artificially inseminated, and the father has not been identified. It is Qin Qin’s second set of twins; she had her first set in 2020.
The newborns are tiny, pink, and blind at this stage, making it difficult to identify them as giant pandas. According to National Geographic, newborn pandas weigh only 1/900th of their mother’s weight, making them among the smallest newborns in comparison to their mother.
However, the pandas are in good hands with their mother and are said to be doing well. They’ll soon mature into the iconic black-and-white animals we know and love.
Giant pandas have very low reproductive rates due to their short fertility windows: female pandas only have a 36-hour window to become pregnant each year.
Because of their low birth rate, as well as habitat loss and climate change, they have long been considered one of the world’s most vulnerable species. While they are no longer listed as endangered due to conservation efforts, they are still endangered.
That is why breeding giant pandas in captivity is such a critical and difficult task. According to the Associated Press, many of the giant pandas bred in captivity have been released back into the wild, while others remain in zoos and reserves.
The arrival of the twins is being hailed as a sign of progress at a time when giant pandas still face threats in the wild: high temperatures in their native China have caused forest fires, further destroying their natural habitat, and they are still being encroached upon by farmland.