Scientific Name: 

Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Conservation Status:

Where to see them:
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center, Asian Forest

Fun Facts:

The giant panda's feet are plantigrade, meaning that the toes of both the forefeet and the hind feet turn in.

Giant pandas live to be about 18 to 20 years old in the wild but may live to be 30 years old in captivity.

Related pages

Conservation work

Meet the pandas


 Giant Panda

Giant Panda Twins – FAQs
September 2016

Why are these births important?

Numbering fewer than 1,900 in the wild, giant pandas are an endangered species facing serious threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss via deforestation. The species represents Zoo Atlanta’s most significant long-term financial commitment to conservation. The Zoo’s partnership with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding – a long and productive relationship dating back nearly 20 years – has resulted in well over $10 million in sustained support for wild giant pandas living on nature reserves in China.

So far, three giant pandas born at Zoo Atlanta have moved to China in hopes that they will make their own contributions to the world’s giant panda population while becoming part of a powerful conservation collaboration that provides funding for and awareness of the protection of their wild counterparts.

When were the cubs born?

The cubs were born at 7:20 a.m. and 8:07 a.m. on September 3, 2016.   

How much do the cubs weigh?

Giant panda cubs are usually approximately the size of a small cell phone. It’s normal for giant pandas and other bear species to give birth to cubs which are significantly smaller than their parents.

Is it rare for giant pandas to have twins?

While it is estimated that giant pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time, wild giant panda mothers will typically care for only one cub. Advances in animal care and veterinary care in zoos have resulted in successful rearing of twins both in the zoological population in China and in zoos outside China.

The new cubs are Lun Lun’s second set of twins. Lun Lun was not the first giant panda in the U.S. to give birth to twins; however, her first twins, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, born in 2013, were the only surviving pair of giant panda twins in the U.S. prior to these births.

What is the mortality rate of giant panda cubs?

Conclusive infant mortality rates aren’t available for this species, as little is known about the survival rate of cubs in the wild. All baby animals are fragile and vulnerable, but giant panda cubs are at higher risk of mortality because of their tiny size and complete dependency on their mothers.

How many cubs has Lun Lun had in total?

The twins are Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s sixth and seventh cubs. Their 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 of Giant Panda Breeding in China. Their fourth and fifth, female twins Mei Lun and Mei Huan (born 2013), currently reside at Zoo Atlanta.

Will Lun Lun take care of both cubs?

The Zoo Atlanta team’s strategy is always guided by the cubs’ health and the behavior of Lun Lun. As part of the extensive planning required to welcome a new pair of twins, the Zoo team has been prepared since many weeks prior to the births to initiate the same cub-swapping method that was used successfully following the births of Mei Lun and Mei Huan in 2013. With this method, the cubs are rotated so that each receives maternal care and nutrition from Lun Lun.

Does the Zoo know the cubs’ sex?

Not yet. It is very difficult to differentiate the cubs’ sexes at this very young age because of the amount of development that still needs to occur, but the cubs’ sexes will be announced as soon as they are determined.

Where are Lun Lun and the cubs right now?

Lun Lun gave birth in a behind-the-scenes interior den in The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center and will remain there until closer to the time of the cubs’ first entrance into the giant panda habitats.

When and how will the cubs be named?

Chinese tradition maintains that giant panda cubs are named when they reach 100 days of age. All five of Lun Lun’s and Yang Yang’s previous offspring were named according to this tradition, and while there are no firm plans yet for their naming, we expect that the new cubs will be named following this custom.

When will Members and guests be able to see the cubs?

All plans will be based on the cubs’ level of development and Lun Lun’s comfort level in taking the cubs with her into new areas, but we are hopeful that Members and guests will be able to see the twins in December 2016 or January 2017.

Will the cubs meet their father Yang Yang or their sisters Mei Lun and Mei Huan?

Giant pandas are solitary so they do not live together in the wild; the giant pandas at Zoo Atlanta are similarly housed according to this natural behavior. The cubs will remain with Lun Lun until they are weaned; at that time, they will also be ready to begin solitary lifestyles.

Where can I get photos and updates?

Photo and video assets will be provided to media by Zoo Atlanta. Everyone is encouraged to follow the cubs’ progress on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE at zooatlanta.org/pandacam and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to the Zoo’s biweekly eUpdate e-newsletter for regular updates on the cubs and their milestones.


Geographic distribution
Giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains.

Giant pandas live in broadleaf and coniferous forests with a dense understory of bamboo, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year characterizes these forests, often shrouded in heavy clouds.

Physical description
The giant panda, a black-and-white bear, has a body typical of bears. It has black fur on ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of the animal's coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, some speculate that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage into their shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. The panda's thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. Giant pandas have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo. Many people find these chunky, lumbering animals to be cute, but giant pandas can be as dangerous as any other bear.

About the size of an American black bear, giant pandas stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder (on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 250 pounds in the wild. Females rarely reach 220 pounds.

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. More than 160 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

Life span
Scientists aren't sure how long giant pandas live in the wild, but they are sure it's shorter than lifespans in zoos. Chinese scientists have reported zoo pandas as old as 35. The National Zoo's Hsing-Hsing died at age 28 in 1999.

A wild giant panda’s diet is almost exclusively (99 percent) bamboo. The balance consists of other grasses and occasional small rodents or musk deer fawns. In zoos, giant pandas eat bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, a special high-fiber biscuit, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.

Social structure
Adult giant pandas are generally solitary, but they do communicate periodically through scent marks, calls, and occasional meetings. Offspring stay with their mothers from one and a half to three years.

The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for several million years. It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations.