Giant panda cub born in Vienna after zoo sets the right mood

VIENNA (Reuters) - A naturally conceived giant panda cub has been born in Vienna, the city’s main zoo announced on Monday, a rare event that it said is unique in Europe to the Austrian capital.

Getting the shy, bamboo-eating mammals to mate is a famously difficult task, so much so that breeding centers usually turn to artificial insemination instead.

“As far as giant pandas are concerned, Vienna is obviously fertile ground,” Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo, set in the landscaped gardens of a former imperial summer residence, said in a statement.

Pictures and video footage released by the zoo showed the tiny pink newborn clinging to its mother Yang Yang, who has given birth to three other naturally conceived cubs before, all of which are now in China.

The latest arrival, born on Sunday at 5:05 a.m. local time (0305 GMT), is just 10 cm (four inches) long and weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces), so small that zookeepers have been unable to determine its gender.

“Yang Yang is an experienced mother and is taking great care of her offspring,” the zoo’s director, Dagmar Schratter, said. “But one must bear in mind that the mortality rate of giant pandas within their first year is roughly 40 percent.”

The zoo said its panda area would remain closed for the time being to ensure that Yang Yang and her cub are not disturbed.

Reporting by Francois Murphy