A panda at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo gave birth to twins yesterday, weeks after news of the pregnancy sent stocks in nearby restaurants soaring.
They were born in the early hours, the zoo said in a statement, adding that it had not yet confirmed the sex of the pair.
Zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said the twin birth was a first for the Ueno facility.
Photo: REUTERS / Tokyo Zoological Park Society
“When I heard the news that the second baby was born, I couldn’t help but whoop,” he told reporters.
One of the cubs, weighing 124 grams, was placed in an incubator, zoo spokesman Naoya Ohashi told a news conference later that day.
The mother, Shin Shin, “is in good health and carefully looking after” the other baby, Ohashi added.
When pandas have twins, they usually only raise one, “so we will be making sure the mother panda will breastfeed one while we keep the other in the incubator,” he said.
Zookeepers would be swapping the babies so that both cubs experience natural feeding, Ohashi added.
Shin Shin sparked a rally in stocks of eateries near the zoo earlier this month when her suspected pregnancy was announced, with investors anticipating a visitor boom to the area after the delivery.
Shares of a Chinese restaurant nearby spiked nearly 30 percent on the pregnancy and were up 6.4 percent early yesterday.
Even the Japanese government weighed in, with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato calling the birth of the cubs “cheerful news” and inviting “all of Japan to watch over them.”
Zookeepers had been on alert for a possible pregnancy after Shin Shin and her partner, Ri Ri, mated in early March.
The pair are also parents of a female panda, Xiang Xiang, who was born in June 2017 and became a massive draw for the facility.
She was scheduled to be repatriated to China two years after her birth, but Japanese officials negotiated to extend her stay until the end of this year.
Japanese media have been offering regular updates on the Ueno pandas, which before the COVID-19 pandemic drew huge crowds of domestic and foreign tourists.
There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, mainly in bamboo forests in the mountains of China, WWF data showed.
About 600 more live in zoos and breeding centers around the world.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies giant pandas as “vulnerable.”
The black and white mammals are immensely popular around the world, and China loans them out as part of a “panda diplomacy” program to foster foreign ties.
The bears are notoriously bad at reproducing, but early last month, a panda in Malaysia gave birth to her third cub during her stay there.
A newborn in Washington has enthralled Americans since its birth in August last year, with more than 1 million people tuning in on a “Panda Cam” to watch Xiao Qi Ji (小奇蹟, “Little Miracle”).
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