A 16-day-old panda cub has been photographed in her incubator at a Belgian wildlife park – where she and her twin brother are ‘doing great’, keepers say.
The rare twin cubs were born at Pairi Daiza wildlife park in Brugelette on August 8, weighing just five ounces. They have tripled their weight in just 16 days – the boy and girl now weigh 15.6 and 16.9 ounces respectively.
The girl, who has not yet been named, spent today being checked by experts in an incubator while her brother, also without a name, enjoyed bonding time with their mother Hao Hao. Their keepers switch the twins between their mother, and expert care in an incubator, every 24 hours.
The park are following a Chinese tradition which bans naming pandas until they are 100 days old.
The cubs, which have just started forming the well recognised black and white pattern, were described as ‘pink naked sausages’ and ‘shrimps,’ after they were born just hours apart.
‘They’re getting hair, are fuzzy and have spots which is cool. Step-by-step they’re looking like pandas. When they’re born they look like pink naked sausages but now they’re really cute,’ a spokesman for Pairi Daiza wildlife park said.
Hao Hao was impregnated in April and the latest arrivals are the second and third time she has given birth at the wildlife park. She is on a 15-year loan from China and arrived with her mate Xing Hui in 2014.
Their first baby was born in June 2016 and named Tiao Bao, or ‘treasure of heaven’.
‘This double birth is wonderful news for this extraordinary species that is still threatened today,’ said Eric Domb, the president and founder of Pairi Daiza after their birth earlier this month.
While the panda cubs are in the incubators they can be weighed and checked over by experts to make sure they are developing as they should be
The baby panda is yet to open its eyes. This usually happens when the cub is between 40 and 50 days old and these cubs are just 16 days old
Baby pandas are usually 1/900th the size of their mother, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and twins are rare.
Another panda, Cheng Cheng, gave birth to twins Shi Shi (pictured as a newborn) and Dian Dian at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base at the southwestern province of Shichuan on September 12, 1998. They weighed five and two ounces.
Mother pandas can only look after one baby at a time and one of these cubs would have been left to die had experts not been available to care for them.
Keepers wrapped the tiny fuzzy cub in a pink blanket as it rested in its incubator between tests. Tomorrow she will be back with her mother Hao Hao
An expert checks the cub’s paws. Mother pandas can only look after one baby at a time and one of these cubs would have been left to die had panda experts not been available to care for them
Both cubs are yet to be named as the zoo are following a Chinese tradition which bans naming pandas until they are 100 days old (pictured in the incubator)
Triple the size: From its birth on August 8 the tiny cub has tripled in size. Making the leap from five ounces to 16.9 ounces
Giant pandas are notoriously tricky reproducers and Pairi Daiza is funding a Belgian researcher to develop a test that would allow scientists to tell the difference between the ‘false’ pregnancies pandas sometimes exhibit and real ones. Pictured, the cub being looked over while in an incubator
‘They’re now 16 days old. They have tripled their birth weight in two weeks which is great news. Their weight is an important indicator as to whether they’re in good shape and they’re in really good shape,’ the spokesman for Pairi Daiza wildlife park added.
‘They’re doing great. Usually with twins it’s a bit complicated because pandas can’t take care of two babies at the same time. Usually the mother will leave one behind and only take one with her. Here we placed one in an incubator.
‘One is in there and the other is with mother and we switch every 24 hours so they can both get care with mother and experts. This is very important because in 24 hours they get to examine the babies and see how they’re developing. It’s all going very smoothly.’
My bundle of joy: Giant panda mother Hao Hao holds one of her newborn twin babies at the zoo in Belgium after they were born within hours of each other earlier this month
‘Pink shrimps’: These two tiny creatures are what the baby giant pandas, who were born at a Belgian zoo on August 8, looked like as newborns
In order to switch the cubs without causing distress Hao Hao’s Chinese keeper Yang offers her bamboo and honey before making the swap.
‘The panda has a strong bond with her Chinese keeper Yang, so Yang approaches her to switch the babies and it goes well. We offer bamboo and honey and she collaborates. She’s an experienced mother and knows what to do. All is going very well,’ the spokesman added.
‘We don’t have anything going wrong. We have Chinese experts staying for a couple more months to keep everything going well and couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s Baby Girl in the incubator today but tomorrow it will be Baby Boy.’
A mother’s touch: The giant panda mother holds one of her babies in her mouth after its birth at the zoo in Brugelette