From: Reuters
Published August 8, 2006 12:00 AM

Giant Panda Gives Birth to Giant Cub

BEIJING — A giant panda has broken two records in China by giving birth to the heaviest cub born in captivity after the longest period in labour, an exhausting 34 hours, Xinhua news agency said.

Six-year-old Zhang Ka delivered the baby, the second born in captivity in the world this year, on Monday at the Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre in the mountainous southwest, Xinhua said in a report late on Monday.

The cub weighed just 218 grams (half a pound), but still became the heaviest panda ever born in captivity, where most cubs are born weighing between 83 and 190 grams, Xinhua said.

"It is very rare for them to be even near 200 grams," it said.

But the size and the fact that it was Zhang Ka's first child meant a "painstaking and eventful" birth for the mother, who was born in the wild.

"The whole process lasted about 34 hours and was the longest in the history of panda reproduction," Xinhua quoted Zhang Hemin, head of the Wolong centre, as saying.

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.

An estimated 1,600 wild pandas live in nature reserves in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.

It is extremely hard to breed giant pandas in captivity. Females only ovulate once a year, with a slim 24- to 48-hour window for breeding when artificial reproduction methods are usually adopted. Infant mortality is also high.

Pandas eat bamboo shoots and spend a lot of time sleeping. They usually wean their young at around 18 months, and healthy pandas live into their late 20s or early 30s.

Source: Reuters

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