China zoo unveils 'first' surviving panda triplets
By Aaron Tam, AFP
August 13, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
HONG KONG--A Chinese zoo has unveiled newborn panda triplets billed as the world's first known surviving trio, in what it hailed as a "miracle" given the animal's famously low reproductive rate.
The mother panda, named Juxiao, meaning "chrysanthemum smile," delivered the triplets at Guangzhou's Chimelong Safari Park in the early hours of July 29, but was too exhausted to take care of them afterwards.
A video from the zoo showed Juxiao sitting in the corner of a room as she delivered her cubs for four grueling hours and licking them after they were born. By the time it came to the delivery of the third cub, she was lying on her side out of exhaustion.
Her cubs were initially put into incubators while Juxiao regained her strength but had now been brought back to their mother for nursing and were being attended to by a round-the-clock team of feeders, the zoo said Tuesday.
"It was a miracle for us and (the births) exceeded our expectations," the safari park's general manager Dong Guixin told AFP.
"It's been 15 days. They have lived longer than any other triplets so far," Dong said.
An official from Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve, considered the foremost authority on pandas, said the trio were too young to be officially recognized as "surviving" but that they were the only known panda triplets alive.
"We can only say they are surviving once they reach six months. For now they are indeed the only surviving triplets," said an official from the center who gave her name only as Ms. Zhao.
The cubs were naturally conceived when the 12-year-old Juxiao was paired with the 17-year-old father, Linlin, at the zoo, Dong said.
"In September last year, we made them neighbors so they could see each other and get familiarized with things such as smell. Juxiao also had to do more exercise to strengthen herself (for the pregnancy)," he said.
"The triplets can be described as a new wonder of the world," a statement from the safari park added, describing mortality rates among newborn pandas as "extremely high."
Pictures taken earlier this month of the triplets showed the pink-colored cubs inside an incubator with their eyes closed and bodies thinly covered with white fur.
The zoo described them as being between 83 and 124 grams (2.9 and 4.4 ounces) and smaller than the size of a human palm at birth.