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Giant panda cub born at Zoo Atlanta!
Friday, September 2, 2016

Lun Lun has been confirmed to be expecting twins, but only one cub has been born so far 

Lun Lun, a 19-year-old giant panda at Zoo Atlanta, gave birth to a single cub at 7:20 a.m. on September 3, 2016. As recent ultrasounds have confirmed that Lun Lun was carrying twins, birthwatch continues for the delivery of her second cub. The Animal Management and Veterinary Teams are monitoring the single cub and Lun Lun, who appears to be providing appropriate maternal care. 

It is possible for giant panda twins to be born days apart. While the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams continue 24-hour watch for the birth of the second cub, there remains the possibility that the second fetus may be resorbed, or reabsorbed, and will thus not be born. Fetal resorption is not uncommon in giant pandas, and may happen at any time during a giant panda pregnancy. As recently as an August 28 ultrasound, the Veterinary Team had detected the presence of two fetuses with heartbeats. 

“We’re very excited about welcoming a new giant panda cub and continue to remain optimistic for the arrival of its twin. Because we know that giant panda fetuses can be resorbed, resulting in failed pregnancies, we are aware that this could be a possible outcome,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “We continue to keep a close eye on Lun Lun and her newborn to ensure that the cub has the best possible chance of thriving.” 

Giant panda cubs, which are born nearly hairless, blind and barely larger than a small cell phone, are some of the animal kingdom’s most fragile newborns, and their early days of life are critical. A preliminary veterinary checkup will be performed as soon as the team is able to temporarily remove the cub without disrupting Lun Lun’s care. The Zoo team is joined by two colleagues from the Zoo’s partner in giant panda conservation, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. 

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. 

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 cub, which is the first giant panda born in the U.S. in 2016, is the sixth for Lun Lun and 18-year-old male Yang Yang. 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. Their fourth and fifth offspring, 3-year-old females Mei Lun and Mei Huan, reside at Zoo Atlanta and are the only twin giant pandas in the U.S. 

Members and guests can expect to meet the cub in December 2016 or January 2017. Its father, Yang Yang, and sisters, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, will remain in their usual habitats and will not be introduced to the cub. This separation is normal for giant pandas, which are solitary in the wild. 

Updates on the cub and Lun Lun will be provided as details are available. Follow mother and cub on PandaCam hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on zooatlanta.org/pandacam and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.