Mei Xiang, the star attraction at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC, USA, gave birth to twins in August 2015 and they may be the cutest things ever.
The cubs were born hours apart and are both healthy, with a very strong chance of survival.
The first cub was born on Saturday at 5:34pm, with the sibling coming along almost five hours later at 10:05pm.
Baby pandas are born hairless and are roughly about the size of an adult mouse, as can be seen in this video of the older panda cub’s first exam.
The zoo only discovered Mei Xiang’s pregnancy a week ago via an ultrasound, however, the panda started showing signs of pregnancy in July, such as sleeping more, eating less, building a nest and generally spending more time in her den. Despite the high mortality rate of panda offspring, they zoo remained hopeful.
The zoo’s director Dennis Kelly, said of the new babies: “All of us are thrilled that Mei Xiang has given birth. We know Mei is an excellent mother.”
The twins are not 17-year-old Mei Xiang’s first surviving offspring. She also has 10-year-old Tai Shan and 2-year-old Bao Bao with her male partner Tian Tian. Here she is with baby Tai in 2005, before he returned to China in 2010.
And Bao Bao.
Here she is with panda-hubby Tian Tian.
In the wild, pandas won’t usually nurse twins. They usually care for one and allow the other to die. However, the zoo has a solution to this problem. Every few hours, they intend to swap out the youngsters, giving each cub the crucial time it needs to nurse and bond with its mother, while the other is kept snug in an incubator. This technique helped a set of twins in an Atlanta zoo two years ago to survive.
Want to see the adorable furry family up close? The twins are expected to be introduced to the public within the next few weeks. In the mean time, the panda exhibit will be closed, but you can watch mother and her babies on the zoo’s panda cam!