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Surprise Birth Threatens Panda's Health
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A giant panda once believed to be male has given birth to twin cubs in southwest China's Sichuan Province, but she is now fighting for her life.

Jinzhu, 11, delivered two female cubs at midnight on Monday at Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas. The cubs, born one hour apart, weigh 190 grams and 70 grams.

However, Jinzhu suffered serious hemorrhaging and is currently in critical condition.

Jinzhu was classified as a male after her birth on August 12, 1996 owing to "inconspicuous secondary sex characteristics and behavior," scientists said.

"The penis of an adult panda is only about three centimeters long," said Li Desheng, a panda expert, as an excuse for the blunder.

In December 2000, Jinzhu was sent to Japan to mate with a female panda. When the pandas showed complete disinterest, experts decided to turn to artificial insemination, leading to the discovery that Jinzhu had no penis.

Jinzhu was sent back to China in December 2002. Some experts concluded that the panda was hermaphroditic while others said its sexual organs were underdeveloped.

It wasn't until 2005 that scientists carried out an endoscopic examination and found that Jinzhu's ovaries were positioned in the wrong place. Doctors managed to correct the problem in a two-hour operation.

The giant panda is one of the world's most exotic and endangered species and is found only in China, where it is a national treasure. Studies from the State Forestry Administration show there are over 180 giant pandas living in captivity on the Chinese mainland.

Experts had previously estimated there were 1,590 giant pandas living in the wild in China, but Chinese and British scientists announced in June that there could be as many as 3,000 after a survey using a new method to profile DNA from giant panda feces.

(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2007)

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