Surprise as 'male' giant panda gives birth to twins

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-10 07:06

CHENGDU: A giant panda once thought to be male has given birth to twin cubs in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, and luckily has passed through the three-day serious hemorrhaging period, an expert said yesterday.

Jinzhu, 11, delivered two female cubs at midnight on Monday at the Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas. The cubs, both female, were born an hour apart and weighed in at 190 g and 70 g.

Jinzhu suffered serious hemorrhaging following the birth but was said to be out of danger on Wednesday night.

One of the cubs is now suckling from its mother, while her sister remains in an incubator and is being hand-fed.

Jinzhu was classified as a male after her birth on August 12, 1996 owing to "inconspicuous secondary sex characteristic and behavior", said Wei Rongping, assistant diretor of the research center for Wolong Giant Pandas Nature Reserve.

"The penis of an adult panda is only about three centimeters long," said Li Desheng, a panda expert, as an excuse for the blunder.

In December 2000, Jinzhu was sent to Japan to mate with a female panda. When the pandas showed complete disinterest, experts decided to turn to artificial insemination, leading to the discovery that Jinzhu had no penis.

Jinzhu was sent back to China in December 2002. Some experts concluded that the panda was hermaphroditic while others said its sexual organs were underdeveloped.

It wasn't until 2005 that scientists carried out an endoscopic examination and found that Jinzhu's ovaries were positioned in the wrong place. After a two-hour operation, the panda became a "normal girl", said scientists.

Most female giant pandas become mothers at five or six years old, but Jinzhu showed little sexual impulse even when she was eight, Wei said.

Experts sent Jinzhu's blood sample to West China Medical University in Sichuan and the lab test indicated that Jinzhu has normal chromosome.

In March 2007, Jinzhu successfuly mated with a male and gave birth to "baby twin girls" 142 days later.

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. Studies from the State Forestry Administration show there are over 180 giant pandas living in captivity on the Chinese mainland.

Experts had previously estimated there were 1,590 giant pandas living in the wild in China, but Chinese and British scientists announced in June that there could be as many as 3,000 after a survey using a new method to profile DNA from giant panda feces.


(China Daily 08/10/2007 page4)

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