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Panda Lun Lun Gives Birth at Atlanta Zoo

September 07, 2006|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — The sign hanging outside Zoo Atlanta says it all: Congratulations, Lun Lun.

The 9-year-old giant panda gave birth just before 5 p.m. Wednesday after 35 hours of labor -- the longest recorded birth for a panda. It's the first panda cub born at the Atlanta zoo and is just the fifth giant panda born at a U.S. zoo in the last six years.

The hairless cub weighs about 4 ounces and is the size of a stick of butter. Its sex will not be known for weeks. Zoo officials said they could have twins on their hands -- about 50% of giant pandas deliver two cubs.

Dwight Larson, vice president for animal programs and science for the zoo, said a second cub could be born within 12 to 24 hours after the first.

Lun Lun is responding normally to her new baby, holding the cub and reacting when it cries, Larson said.

The first few weeks of a cub's life are critical to its survival, Larson said.

"These are small offspring and quite fragile," he said. "It's going to be tense for us."

The cub will take about 75 days to open its eyes. At 100 days, as is tradition, the zoo will hold a naming ceremony and present the cub to the public.

After trying for seven years, the zoo successfully inseminated Lun Lun at the end of March with semen taken from her male partner, Yang Yang. The father and cub are being kept separate, which is normal in the wild.

A panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington, born last summer, was the product of artificial insemination. There are only 1,600 to 3,000 of the endangered species remaining in the wild today, and 185 in captivity.

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