The royal babies have arrived! Yesterday, a 15-year-old panda, Lun Lun, gave birth to twins at the Zoo Atlanta (the regal panda has inspired at least one restaurant chain called Royal Panda Restaurant—why? What royal babies did you think we meant?)
The newborns are newsworthy because 1) They are adorable baby pandas and isn't that reason enough? 2) They mark the first time that panda twins have been born in the United States in 26 years, with the last pair born in 1987.
And it seems that even the zookeepers were surprised by two bundles of joy: "On the few ultrasound images that mom actually cooperated with, we only saw one developing fetus," Dwight Lawson, deputy director of Zoo Atlanta, explained.
Lun Lun gave birth at 6:21 and 6:23pm and the gender of the babies have not been released yet. Their father is another 15-year-old panda, Yang Yang, and they are the result of artificial insemination. The newborns have two older brothers at the zoo, Xi Lan, 4, and Po, 2 (named after Jack Black's character in Kung Fu Panda).
Lest you become to overcome with joy by the news, here's some depressing information to accompany the announcement: The twins were separated shortly after birth, one staying with Lun Lun while the other is cared for by the zoo staff. In the wild, a panda mother will only care for one baby and leave the other to die ("It's physically difficult for the mother panda to manipulate more than one cub," Lawson says).
Zoo officials say they may rotate the two cubs over the next few months so that each has time to be cared for by Lun Lun. [Another idea, just while we're brainstorming: One cub lives with Lun Lun and one goes with Yang Yang and then they pull a panda Parent Trap sort of deal later in life.]
Right now, the panda twins
look like weird little aliens are tiny, hairless and pink, but will develop patches of hair in a week or two. Before we know it, they'll be the adorable baby panda twins we've always dreamed of:
You can follow their adventure on Zoo Atlanta's live Panda Cam.
Lawson also revealed that the zoo will work with experts in China to name the babies once they're 100 days old, so you have a bit of time to organize your office pool predicting the gender and names of both.
We're going with a boy and a girl, named Mr. Ping and Beyoncé, Princess of the World, respectively.