September 2, 2019 / 9:17 AM / a month ago

Berlin celebrates birth of Germany's first giant panda cubs

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s first giant panda cubs have been born and their mother, Meng Meng, is doing a wonderful job looking after the pink twins who bear no resemblance to their black and white furry parents, Berlin Zoo announced on Monday.

Panda Meng-Meng carries one of her newborn twin cubs in her mouth at Berlin Zoo, Berlin, Germany August 31, 2019 in this still image taken from a video made available September 2, 2019. Berlin Zoo/REUTERS TV via REUTERS

Immediately after the first birth, the mother placed the creature on her belly and warmed it with her large paws and soft fur, said the zoo. Within an hour, a second cub had been born.

“On Saturday evening, Berlin’s panda population doubled as Germany welcomed its first-ever panda offspring - two of them!” said the Zoo, adding that mother and cubs were all in good health. The zoo is also home to the cubs’ father, Jiao Ching.

As pandas with twins usually raise only one of the cubs, the zoo is actively supporting Meng Meng, 6, in the rearing process and has enlisted experts from China’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Zoo to help.

It is notoriously difficult to get giant pandas to mate and with only 1,864 adults living in their natural habitat, every new cub is an important contribution to the conservation of the species, said Berlin Zoo director and vet Andreas Knieriem.

After weeks of speculation which made headlines in Berlin and national newspapers, experts at the zoo confirmed just over a week ago that Meng Meng was pregnant. The cubs weigh 186 and 136 grams and their gender has not yet been determined.

China has long engaged in ‘panda diplomacy’. German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who heads to China on a pre-planned visit this week - and Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Meng Meng and Jiao Qing to Berlin Zoo at a ceremony in 2017 as part of a loan agreement.

Under that deal, any cubs will be returned to China once they no longer need their mother. But for now, Berlin is celebrating.

“What fantastic news! The whole of Berlin is delighted about the new arrivals!” Berlin’s mayor Michael Mueller said.

Meanwhile, panda father Jiao Qing, 9, is relaxing and munching on bamboo. He is not involved in cub rearing.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones

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