Giant panda unexpectedly gives birth to twin cubs at Vienna zoo

CCTV observing the giant panda showed two tiny pink cubs resting on her chest, after it was thought she had only given birth to one

Alexandra Sims
Tuesday 16 August 2016 16:13 BST
Panda unexpectedly gives birth to twin cubs

A giant panda who gave birth to a cub at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo last week, surprised staff after a second cub was discovered hiding underneath her large paws.

The zoo initially said mother Yang Yang had given birth to one cub on 7 August.

But on Tuesday it was revealed she had actually given birth to twins after pictures and video footage from CCTV observing the animal showed two tiny pink cubs resting on Yang Yang's chest.

Yang Yang the panda cradles her new cubs (AP)

"It sounded as though two cubs were squealing, but we only ever saw one," zoo director Dagmar Schratter said in a statement on Tuesday.

"On Friday, the zookeepers were first able to make out two of them on the screen."

The delay in spotting the extra cub is due to the fact the birth was only observed by camera in a private pen and that new-born pandas are incredibly tiny. The cub whose birth was announced last week measured just 10cm and weighed only 100g.

Panda cubs are also rarely seen because their mothers constantly warm them between their paws.

The giant panda that gave birth at Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo last week was hiding a tiny little secret - an extra cub (AP)

The baby giant pandas are Yang Yang's fourth and fifth cubs. Her three other cubs, Fu Long, Fu Hu and Fu Bao, are now in China.

The birth of panda cubs in captivity is a rare event for the endangered species who struggle to breed in zoos.

Artificial breeding techniques and better knowledge of the animals' needs has seen an increase in births in recent years.

The Schoenbrunn Zoo, however, says no other European zoo has managed to breed giant pandas by natural means.

In June, six-year-old giant panda Hao Hao gave birth to a cub weighing 171 grams at Pairi Daiza wildlife park in Belgium. However, this followed artificial insemination from her mate Xing Hui.

In 2014 a survey by the World Wide fund for Nature (WWF) found only 1,864 pandas still lived in the wild, although this was a 17 per cent increase in a decade and double the numbers in the late 1970s.

More than 300 pandas now live in zoos mostly in China, as part of an effort to save the species.

Additional reporting by agencies

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