Twin baby pandas born pink and hairless at zoo as species deemed ‘vulnerable’

The twin pandas were born at a Madrid zoo following successes in an international breeding programme to raise the formerly endangered species’ numbers

Twin giant panda cubs have been born at a zoo in Madrid, giving a massive boost to conservation efforts for the species, recently upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable”.

The pair, whose sex is yet to be determined, are the fifth and sixth cubs of Madrid’s female panda Hua Zui Ba and her partner Bing Xing, the zoo said.

After four hours of labour, the first cub was born around 8.30am, while the second followed four hours later in what the zoo described as a “peaceful” birth.

Two technicians from China’s Chengdu panda breeding base will assist local veterinarians in checking the health of the pink, hairless newborns, who will be totally dependent on their mother for the first four months of their life.

In July, Chinese conservationists announced they no longer considered pandas to be an endangered species, upgrading their status a notch to vulnerable.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature made a similar change to its classification in 2016.

Female pandas often have two offspring at a time.

Panda reproduction — in captivity or in the wild — is notoriously difficult, experts say, as few of the animals get in the mood or, even when they do, they do not know how to mate.

Further complicating matters, the window for conception is narrow since female pandas are in heat only once a year, for about one or two days.

Earlier this year, the UK’s only female giant panda was artificially inseminated in a move dubbed a “critical” part of the same international breeding programme.

With fewer than 2,000 giant pandas left, Tian Tian underwent the procedure at Edinburgh Zoo in April, and keepers hoped she’d produce a cub.

Keepers said Tian Tian was artificially inseminated under expert veterinary care during her annual health check.

For their last update, made following the insemination in April, they said it was too early to know if she is pregnant.

They said it’s difficult to know with certainty if a panda is pregnant, and that they would have to find out when she gives birth.

The zoo said in a statement on its website: “We are pleased to say that all went well, though it is too early to know if she is pregnant at this very early stage.

“Tian Tian gave birth once before in 2007 and it really would be incredible for her to experience being a mother again. We will all be keeping our fingers crossed.”

Tian Tian previously had cubs in China but not in the UK, where she and male companion Yang Guang arrived in 2011 as part of a 10-year contract with the Chinese government.

In May, campaigners warned the planet’s animals, including panda’s, are under threat like never before and urgent action is needed to stop nature going into freefall.

The alert came 60 years after the Daily Mirror published a special shock issue revealing many species faced extinction “due to man’s folly, greed and neglect”.