Hopes are high twin panda cubs will survive

Zookeepers in Washington DC are optimistic about the survival chances of twin cubs born to giant panda Mei Xiang.

In more than three decades of trying to breed pandas at the National Zoo, there has been plenty of heartbreak, and more cubs have died than survived.

But now zoo officials do not just have an apparently healthy pair of twins, born on Saturday night, they have a template to follow that gives the cubs a strong chance of survival.

Pandas will not usually nurse twins if left to their own devices, as they will care for one and allow the other to die.

But in the past decade, Chinese breeders have devised a system, every few hours, they swap out the cubs, giving each one the critical time it needs to nurse and bond with its mother.

Meanwhile, the other one is kept in an incubator.

Panda keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will continue performing these delicate swaps as long as needed if Mei Xiang lets them.

By late Sunday afternoon, the twins had traded places three times without incident.


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