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Giant Panda Twins Born in Sichuan
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A new pair of giant pandas have been born in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, a local panda research center said on Monday.


The cubs, born on Friday, had survived the critical first three days after birth, said Li Desheng, deputy director of the Research Center of the Sichuan-based Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas.


Eight-year-old "Ye Ye" first gave birth to a female cub weighing 150 grams at the research center and then a male weighing 146 grams, said Li.


Researchers were giving "Ye Ye" breaks in caring for the cubs, and mother and cubs were in good health.


China has seen 24 giant panda births in captivity in 15 deliveries so far this year, including nine twins, and 23 have survived.


"It was a pleasant surprise to see so many pandas born this year," said Zhang Zhihe, director with the China Committee of Breeding Technique for Giant Pandas. "That's due to the hard work of Chinese researchers, who have developed quite mature skills in artificial insemination."


Experts say both artificial insemination and natural mating are usually used at the same time to help female pandas become pregnant, as the endangered animal only gives birth once a year, each time to one or two cubs, while pandas bred in captivity are even less sexually active.


China has been breeding giant pandas artificially since the 1960s. Last year, the country saw 33 born in captivity in 21 deliveries, 30 of which survived, setting a record.


Zhang attributed the baby boom to the fact that more female pandas had reached breeding age in the past two years than in previous years.


Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species.


China had raised 210 giant pandas in captivity by the end of 2006, while an estimated 1,590 live in the wild, most of them in Sichuan and Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.


(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2007)


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