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Giant Panda Twins Play Outside

Ya Lun and Xi Lun the giant panda twins play outsideThe only giant panda twins in the U.S. get their first outdoor playdate

The only giant panda twins in the U.S., Ya Lun and Xi Lun, have reached yet another adorable milestone: exploring the great outdoors for the first time. On March 27, 2017, lucky visitors got a peek at the duo as they got a taste of their first Georgia spring in an outdoor habitat at Zoo Atlanta’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center.

As is typical of their personalities, Ya Lun was the adventurer, quickly exploring her new surroundings, while her sister Xi Lun was more reticent. Ya Lun is typically the more daring of the duo; Xi Lun, on the other hand, tends to be cautious about new experiences.

It is not unusual for the cubs, who will be 7 months old on April 3, to be making their first trip into an outdoor space at this age. A mother bear with very young cubs, which in the case of giant pandas are born exceptionally tiny, hairless, blind and entirely dependent, would instinctively keep her offspring in a secluded and protected den area, away from predators and the elements. Lun Lun followed this instinct with Ya Lun and Xi Lun, remaining with the cubs in behind-the-scenes dens until late December 2016, when she began exploring the option of taking the cubs into their dayroom habitat. The cubs have been visible in that space full-time since mid-March.

Giant pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant investment in wildlife conservation. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta. In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the giant panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable.” The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and giant pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.

Since Ya Lun, Xi Lun and Lun Lun are still becoming comfortable in the outdoor habitat, the Zoo’s Animal Care Team began allowing the three to explore the space for brief times before Zoo opening hours on March 24, but March 27 was the first occasion when Zoo guests got a sneak-peek of the cubs outside. Ya Lun and Xi Lun will continue to check out the space on a gradual basis at limited times during the day, so there is not yet a guarantee of seeing the cubs in the outdoor habitat. During Spring Break, April 3-April 9, in anticipation of larger numbers of visitors, the cubs will be visible inside in their interior dayroom habitats.

Born September 3, 2016, Ya Lun and Xi Lun are the sixth and seventh offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang. Their older brothers and sisters, Mei Lan, Xi Lan, Po, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, now reside at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

Visit zooatlanta.org to plan your trip. Check in with Ya Lun, Xi Lun and Lun Lun on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE at zooatlanta.org/panda-cam, and follow Zoo Atlanta on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for cub updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Meet Lun Lun and the twins in a Lun Lun and Cubs Wild Encounter; click here for details and availability.

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