Twin joy as Tokyo panda gives birth to two cubs

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Tokyo (AFP)

A panda at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo gave birth to twins on Wednesday, weeks after news of Shin Shin’s pregnancy spiked stocks at nearby restaurants.

The two joy balls were born in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the zoo said in a statement, adding that it had not yet confirmed the couple’s gender.

“Officials are currently doing their best to protect and observe the mother and babies,” the statement added.

The zoo is expected to give a press conference later Wednesday morning and post pictures of the tiny additions.

Mother Shin Shin sparked a rally at restaurant stocks near the zoo earlier this month when her suspected pregnancy was announced, with investors anticipating a boom in visitors to the area after giving birth.

Shares of a nearby Chinese restaurant climbed nearly 30% during pregnancy and rose about 6.4% at the start of trading on Wednesday.

Zookeepers were on alert for a possible pregnancy after Shin Shin and her partner Ri Ri mated in early March.

The couple are also parents to a female panda, Xiang Xiang, who was born in June 2017 and has become a huge draw for the zoo.

She was to be repatriated to China two years after her birth, but Japanese authorities successfully negotiated to extend her stay.

She is now expected to return to China at the end of the year.

Japanese media regularly provide updates on Ueno’s pandas, which, in the absence of a pandemic, attract huge crowds of domestic and foreign tourists.

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild, living mostly in the bamboo forests of China’s highlands, according to environmental group WWF.

About 600 more live in zoos and breeding centers around the world.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies giant pandas as “vulnerable”.

Black and white mammals are immensely popular around the world, and China lends them out as part of a “panda diplomacy” program aimed at fostering foreign ties.

Bears are notoriously bad at breeding, but last year several were born in facilities around the world.

In early June, a Malaysian panda gave birth to her third cub during her stay there.

And a newborn baby in Washington DC has captivated Americans since birth in August 2020, with over a million people tuning in in just a few months to watch Xiao Qi Ji – Little Miracle – on a “Panda Cam” .

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