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Double cuddle: rare twin panda cubs born in Berlin zoo

AP, September 3, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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The newborn panda twins during their first hours at the zoo after they were born. Female panda Meng Meng gave birth to the two panda babies at Zoo Berlin on Saturday evening August 31. Picture: AP media_cameraThe newborn panda twins during their first hours at the zoo after they were born. Female panda Meng Meng gave birth to the two panda babies at Zoo Berlin on Saturday evening August 31. Picture: AP

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A panda called Meng Meng has given birth to twin panda cubs.

Berlin zoo staff are celebrating the rare twin birth, even more exciting because it is the first time a panda has given birth in Germany.

“Meng Meng became a mom — twice! We are so happy, we are speechless,” the zoo posted on Twitter on Monday.

Twin panda cubs born

Zoo Berlin said that Meng Meng gave birth to a hand-sized pink cub at 6.54pm on Saturday.

According to the zoo, mothering came naturally to the 6-year-old panda: “She placed the tiny creature gently on her belly and began to warm it lovingly with her big paws, warm breath, and the soft fur of her cheeks.”

An hour later, its twin was born.

Meng Meng with one of the twin cubs. Picture: Zoo Berlin media_cameraMeng Meng with one of the twin cubs. Picture: Zoo Berlin

At birth, the cubs were 136g and 186g and looked nothing like an adult panda: pink, covered in fine white hair and with a long tail. The zookeepers can’t yet tell if they are male or female.

media_cameraOne of the twin giant panda cubs. Picture: Zoo Berlin via AP

Keepers only confirmed last week that Meng Meng was pregnant. She had mated with 9-year-old partner Jiao Qing in April and was also artificially inseminated* to increase the chance of pregnancy.

media_cameraMeng Meng at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China before leaving for Germany in 2017. Picture: AFP
media_cameraJiao Qing in 2017, just before he and Meng Meng left China for Germany. Picture: AFP

Meng Meng and Jiao Qing arrived from China in June 2017.

They are on loan from China, as are the giant pandas at Adelaide Zoo in South Australia and about 400 pandas in zoos around the world.

Zoo Berlin pays money towards conservation projects in China as a fee for having the pandas to stay. The twin panda cubs will go to China to live about four years after they have stopped breastfeeding.

A 2014 census* counted 1864 giant pandas left in the wild, which is an increase since the 1970s, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature*.

media_cameraOne of the twin cubs receives its first check by zoo staff. Picture: Zoo Berlin via AP

ADELAIDE PANDA UPDATE
Australia’s only giant pandas live at Adelaide Zoo in South Australia.

Wang Wang and Fu Ni are on loan from China and this agreement finishes at the end of this year.

The SA Government and the zoo are trying to keep the pandas in Australia beyond this year.

If the pandas are able to stay, the goal is for Fu Ni to have a cub and the most likely time of year for her to mate to become pregnant is September.

Panda Funi media_cameraAdelaide Zoo’s giant panda Fu Ni (which means lucky girl) in 2018.

GLOSSARY

  • inseminated: medical process of putting sperm (which carries the genetic material from the male) close to the eggs in a female to help the eggs’ fertilisation
  • census: count
  • World Wide Fund for Nature: WWF, an international, non-government conservation organisation

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. There are at least two things to be excited about for zoo staff. What are they?
  2. How old is Meng Meng?
  3. Will the twins stay in Germany?
  4. How many giant pandas were left in the wild in 2014?
  5. What are the names of the two giant pandas in Adelaide?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Double trouble
It’s a rare event for a panda to give birth to twins and the first panda cub to be born in Germany. So these are two very special panda cubs, especially as China and the rest of the world are working to boost their numbers. Given how exciting the birth of these twin panda cubs are, think of a name for both that has special meaning. Write each name and meaning beside it and perhaps you or your teacher or parents could email your suggestions to the Berlin zoo. Share your name suggestions with your classmates and hear their suggestions.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Intercultural, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Write a letter to the Chinese government outlining the reasons why the South Australian government wants to keep the giant pandas for a longer period of time in Australia. Ask for an extension of time and list the benefits for both countries for extending this agreement.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Intercultural

VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you like to be a twin? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages to being a twin could be?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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