Lun Lun’s Second Cub Has Been Born
ATLANTA – September 3, 2016 – Lun Lun, a 19-year-old giant panda, gave birth to the second of her twins at 8:07 a.m. on September 3, 2016. Her first cub arrived at 7:20 a.m. The cubs, the first giant pandas born in the U.S. in 2016, are the second pair of twins for Lun Lun.
Giant pandas exhibit delayed implantation, and the twin cubs developed from two separate eggs. Following the birth of the first cub, the Zoo Atlanta teams continued to await the arrival of the second cub. Although it is possible for giant panda twins to be born as far apart as days, up until the second cub’s birth, there had remained the possibility that the second fetus could be resorbed, or reabsorbed, and would thus not be born. Fetal resorption is not uncommon in giant pandas.
“We’re thrilled and relieved that the second of Lun Lun’s twins has arrived. While we were aware of the possibility that the two might not be born close together, we were also aware of the possibility that the second fetus could be resorbed, resulting in a failed pregnancy,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Our focus now will be the care and monitoring of the cubs and Lun Lun to ensure that both cubs have the best opportunity to succeed.”
Giant panda cubs, which are born nearly hairless, blind and barely larger than a cell phone, are some of the animal kingdom’s most fragile newborns, and their early days of life are critical. The Animal Management and Veterinary Teams will employ the same cub-swapping method used with success following the births of the cubs’ sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, caring for one cub in a nursery unit while Lun Lun cares for the other. The cubs’ time with their mother will be rotated to ensure that both receive equal amounts of maternal care.
Although twins are not unusual in giant pandas, the risk of infant mortality is higher in twins than in single-cub births. In the wild, giant panda mothers who give birth to twins generally care for only one cub, and it is normal in the wild for only one twin to survive. The cub-swapping approach allows the mother to provide care and feeding for both of her offspring without becoming overexerted.
Lun Lun was artificially inseminated on March 28, 2016, and round-the-clock birthwatch began on August 22, 2016. Since the time of the artificial insemination, the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams have been conducting regular ultrasounds and monitoring Lun Lun’s behavior, as well as monitoring hormone analyses conducted by David Kersey, PhD, an expert in giant panda endocrinology from Western University of Health Sciences. The nursery care team is joined by two colleagues from the Zoo’s partner in giant panda conservation, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.
Giant pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant financial investment in conservation. Fewer than 1,900 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, and more than 1,200 of these live inside nature reserves. Support from Zoo Atlanta benefits wild giant pandas living on eight of these reserves. In 2012, Zoo Atlanta and partner organizations, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Memphis Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global, received the International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for their commitment to the species. The award recognized exceptional efforts toward giant panda regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.
The cubs are the sixth and seventh giant pandas born at Zoo Atlanta. All of Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s cubs have been the result of artificial insemination. The pair’s 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. Their fourth and fifth offspring, females Mei Lun and Mei Huan (born 2013), reside at Zoo Atlanta and are now joined by their younger siblings as the only sets of giant panda twins in the U.S.
Zoo Atlanta Members and guests can expect to meet the cubs in December 2016 or January 2017. Their father, 18- year-old Yang Yang, and 3-year-old sisters Mei Lun and Mei Huan remain in their usual habitats and will not be introduced to the cubs. This separation is normal for giant pandas, which are solitary in the wild.
Follow Lun Lun and the cubs on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on zooatlanta.org/pandacam and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Updates will be provided as they are available.
Rachel Davis Director of Communications
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About the giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta
The giant panda program at Zoo Atlanta dates to the mid-1990s, prior to the debut of giant panda pair Lun Lun and Yang Yang, who arrived in 1999 on loan from China. Zoo Atlanta initiated its giant panda loan with its primary Chinese partners, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG), the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and the Chengdu Zoo. Zoo Atlanta scientists developed a program focused on using behavioral and veterinary research to understand, support, and lengthen maternal care; improve reproductive success and well-being; understand giant pandas’ cognitive and perceptual abilities; and improve health, including preventative medicine. Zoo Atlanta’s relationship with the Chengdu Research Base and Chengdu Zoo also led to the creation of conservation education departments at these institutions – the first of their kind in Chinese zoos. In 2012, Zoo Atlanta and partners Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Memphis Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global earned the prestigious International Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for their long-term commitment to the species. To date, seven giant panda cubs have been born at Zoo Atlanta: Mei Lan (2006); Xi Lan (2008); Po (2010); Mei Lun and Mei Huan (2013); and Lun Lun’s newest cubs, twins born on September 3, 2016. Mei Lan, Xi Lan and Po currently reside at the Chengdu Research Base.
About Zoo Atlanta
Viewed as one of the finest zoological institutions in the U.S. and a proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Zoo Atlanta has a mission to inspire value and preservation of wildlife through a unique mix of education and outdoor family experiences. From well-known native wildlife to critically endangered species on the brink of extinction, the Zoo offers memorable close encounters with more than 1,000 animals from around the world. The Zoo’s newest destination, Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, featuring more than 70 species in a 111,000 square-foot complex, opened in 2015 and is the world’s first LEED Gold-certified reptile and amphibian exhibit. Zoo highlights include Mei Lun and Mei Huan, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; North America’s largest zoological collection of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Up-close-and-personal animal experiences include behind-the-scenes Wild Encounters with African elephants, Aldabra giant tortoises, giant pandas, lemurs, Sumatran tigers and warthogs. Zoo Atlanta is open daily with the exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Keeper talks, interactive wildlife shows, education programs and special events run year-round. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.