Giant panda at French zoo gives birth to twins, one dies

PARIS (Reuters) - A giant panda in Beauval zoo gave birth to twin cubs on Friday, the first ever to be born in France, but one died shortly afterwards, the zoo said.

Huan Huan, a female on loan to the zoo from China, had been under close surveillance for several days and a crack team of veterinary staff including two Chinese birthing specialists assembled for the birth.

“Huan Huan remained very calm throughout. The first baby came quickly and Huan Huan held it against her and licked it clean,” the zoo said in a statement.

“The second followed 14 minutes later. Huan Huan abandoned the first and looked after the second.”

While an adult female panda can weigh up to 125 kilograms (275 pounds), a baby panda weighs barely 120 grams (4 ounces) at birth.

In the wild, pandas typically give birth to a single infant, born tiny, blind and pink with hardly any hairs. While the second baby was strong and healthy, the zoo said, the firstborn was much weaker and died after barely two hours.

Huan Huan and her partner Yuan Zi, whose names translate as “Joy” and “Podgy” respectively, came to France in 2012, their arrival hailed as a sign of warming diplomatic ties between Paris and Beijing.

They are due to stay until 2022 before being returned to China. Their offspring will stay in France until the age of two or three before being returned to China.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Sandra Maler