photo credit: Toronto Zoo
At 3:31 a.m. yesterday morning, a giant panda gave birth to two cubs at the Toronto Zoo, making them the first ever pandas born in Canada. The mother, Er Shun, was impregnated through artificial insemination by sperm from the zoo’s male panda, Da Mao. The two cubs, which according to the zoo’s twitter “appear to be doing well,” weigh just 187.7 grams (0.41 pounds) and 115 grams (0.25 pounds), respectively.
Although panda twins are not uncommon, the mother tends to instinctively care for just one of the cubs. Zookeepers will therefore “twin swap” the cubs to ensure the mother cares for both of them.
In a statement, John Tracogna, CEO of Toronto Zoo, praised the dedication, passion and expertise of the zoo’s staff who made this possible. He added, “We are so proud to be contributing to the ongoing survival of this endangered species.”
Councillor Raymond Cho, chairman of the Toronto Zoo Board of Management, added: “We look forward to sharing our learnings with scientists around the world in the hope this will help us save this endangered species.”
The two pandas are currently on loan to the zoo from China as part of their breeding program. They will stay at the zoo until 2018. The Chinese government owns all of the giant pandas in the world, however they loan them to other countries for renewable 10-year periods. The fee for renting a pair of pandas is around $1,000,000 (£650,275), which goes towards funds for conservation of the species.