Giant panda gives birth to twin babies at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo

Giant panda gives birth to twin babies at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo

TOKYO – A month before the Tokyo Summer Olympics, the city has another reason to celebrate – giant panda Shin Shin gave birth to twin babies at Ueno Zoo, the first panda birth in four years.

The Tokyo Zoo website listed the two newborn pandas as being born an hour and a half apart at 1:03 a.m. (1403 GMT) and 2:32 a.m. on Wednesday. Their gender has not been determined and they have not yet been named.

“All the staff are working together to observe and protect the mother and children of the giant panda,” the zoo said in a statement posted on its panda website.

One of the cubs weighs 124 g (4.37 ounces), according to the ad. The weight of the other is unknown. The cubs are about the length of an adult human hand, as shown in a photo on the zoo’s website.

A staff member from Ueno Zoological Park holds one of the new twin pandas delivered by the giant panda Shin Shin at Ueno Zoological Park in Tokyo on Tokyo Zoological Park Society / Reuters

Shin Shin was born on July 3, 2005 at the Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center in Wolong, China, and arrived at Ueno Zoo ten years ago, along with her male partner Ri Ri. The couple are also parents of a female panda named Xiang Xiang, born in June 2017.

Download the NBC News app for the latest news and politics

It is not immediately clear when the newborns should be on display at the zoo. Shin Shin had been removed from public view since the zoo reopened after it closed due to a pandemic on June 4, as she showed signs of possible pregnancy.

Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, as females are only in heat once a year and can be picky with their mates.

“The pandas are now a family of five. This is very good news,” Japanese chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said, congratulating zookeepers on the birth.

“I believe everyone at the zoo is doing everything they can day and night to keep the panda family healthy, and I hope everyone looks after them warmly and quietly.”