Twin pandas “Xiao Xiao Lei Lei” have shown amazing growth. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Twin pandas “Xiao Xiao Lei Lei” have shown amazing growth.

A record of 140 days of growth since birth and the zoo's thoughts

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Twin pandas at the Ueno Zoo, Xiao Xiao (left) and Lei Lei (right) (photo date: October 18, 2021). They have started living together with their mother panda and are growing steadily. The role of the panda is more than just being cute… I asked a zoo staff member about it. Photo: Tokyo Zoological Society

It has been 140 days since the giant panda “twins” were born at the Ueno Zoo. We asked zoo staff members who support the growth of these pandas about their growth and their “thoughts.

On October23, 2021, a mother and her twin pandas began their life together.

“It was the first time since the birth of the twins, born in June, that the mother and the three pandas were together. I was wondering how they would react, but I am relieved to see that mother Xinxin does not seem surprised and is calmly taking care of the children, licking their bodies and feeding them.

Xinxin and her twins (left: Xiaoxiao, center: Leilei), a mother and her three children (photo taken on November 1, 2021) (Photo: Tokyo Zoological Society)

Mr. Naoya Ohashi, Director of the Education and Public Relations Section at the Ueno Zoo, said, “The Ueno Zoo has twin jacinths. The twin giant pandas “Xiao Xiao” and “Lei Lei” were born on June 23 at the Ueno Zoo. The twin pandas, in fact, “didn’t know whether they would actually be born or not until they gave birth.

Giant pandas sometimes have “false pregnancies,” in which their bellies and breasts grow so large that they appear to be pregnant, even though they are not. Xinxing also had a “false pregnancy” once. However, “because we don’t use ultrasound or other tests to determine the effects on the mother, we sometimes don’t know if she is really pregnant until after she gives birth. That’s how delicate panda pregnancy and birth are.

“It was after 1 a.m. when I gave birth. I was relieved when Shin Shin approached and picked up the baby,” said Yutaka Fukuda, director of the Ueno Zoo.

In the midst of this joy, at 2:32 a.m., the second baby was born.

“At 2:32 a.m., a second baby was born. And, of course, I was truly happy.

One of the twins weighed 124 grams when it was born, and the other weighed 146 grams when it was weighed the next day. Twins are often feared to be underweight, but Shanshan, who was born four years ago, weighed 147 grams, so there was almost no difference in weight.

To begin with, giant pandas are born in a very immature state. While many animals, such as deer and horses, are able to stand up immediately after birth, they are not able to move on their own even 100 days after birth. Moreover, pandas are said to be raised only one at a time.

After giving birth, one of the pandas was put into an incubator about an hour later. From this point on, eight breeders and five veterinarians began to watch over and care for the pandas around the clock.

Xiao Xiao when she was 27 days old and in the incubator (Photo taken on July 19, 2021) Photo: Tokyo Zoological Society

Why we don’t do the “hug and milk” thing

Then the twin pandas grew up quickly. In early August, both pandas weighed more than 2 kg and grew up to be more like children than babies.

One by one, the pandas were left with Shin Shin in turn, and the one in the incubator was fed milk by the keeper. The baby pandas are so cute that when I asked her if she was jealous of me holding them and giving them milk, she said, “No, no, no.

When I asked her if she was jealous of the idea of holding the baby panda and giving it milk, she replied, “No. Giant pandas are wild animals. No, giant pandas are wild animals, and we don’t hold them and give them artificial milk. When we give them artificial milk, we just let the panda in the incubator suckle on the nipple.

I may lift or carry them when I switch them, but I do not hold them for skinship or communication.

When I give her artificial milk, I am very nervous because I have to pay close attention to make sure that the temperature of the artificial milk has been adjusted for easy drinking, that she is sucking well, and that the angle has been adjusted to prevent aspiration and swallowing. “I’m so jealous that I get to hold a cute panda… excuse me!

By this time, the panda was able to move forward like a scale insect, and occasionally lift its upper body by putting pressure on its front legs. She has also become more sensitive to people’s voices and noises, and has become good at turning over in her sleep. She can drink as much as 300ml of milk at a time.

Is it safe to say that she’s reached this point?

“She’s still very small, so we can’t let our guard down.

Leilei at 117 days old (photo taken on October 18, 2021) Photo: Tokyo Zoological Society

They may look like they’re “getting along” and playing with each other, but ...

By the end of August, both animals weighed over 3,600 grams. They were now about 50 cm tall. As they were getting bigger, they graduated from the incubator.

They took turns going to Shin Shin’s, so the only time they could see each other was when I switched them from the nursery to Shin Shin’s and from Shin Shin’s to the nursery. It was only for a short time, but when they were together, they jostled each other and seemed to get along very well.

“It looks that way, doesn’t it? But I’m not sure how they recognize each other. Their eyes are still blurry, so they may just be interested in something that moves.

When dealing with animals, we must be careful not to think that they are the same as humans. If you look at them in the same way as humans, you may make mistakes in making the necessary decisions in keeping them.

I see… I have to change my way of looking at animals based on our standards, such as “cute” or “friendly.

On October 8th, we had a naming ceremony. The male is Xiao Xiao and the female is Lei Lei. They are breastfed, and have recently developed baby teeth. Are they about to be weaned?

“Giant pandas do not have baby food. They imitate their parents and chew on bamboo grass, and gradually get used to solid food. Shanshan, the older sister of Xiaoxiao and Leilei, was born on June 12, but she put a piece of apple in her mouth for the first time in May of the following year. Considering this, Xiaoxiao and Leilei may start eating apples and bamboo around next spring.

The best thing is that they are growing up healthy!

I can’t wait to meet Xiaoxiao and Leilei! At the moment, they are preparing for their release in January 2022 by playing the radio to get them used to human voices and sounds. She is now about 9 kg.

“I am most grateful that she is growing up healthy. Seeing them grow up so fast makes me feel happy to be doing this job. I also hope that the giant panda will become a source of inspiration for people to learn more about these creatures.

There is a vast giant panda conservation area in China, which has facilities for panda protection and research. In the near future, Shanshan will live at the research facility.

“Under the protection, the number of giant pandas has been increasing steadily, but the number of pandas in the wild outside the protected area is decreasing, and the habitat is being destroyed. I hope that the environment can be improved so that the number of pandas can increase without protection.

There are many things I want people to know about wild animals. Through Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei, I want people to know about the current situation, and we also want to send out information that will lead to the conservation of wild animals, including the giant panda.

Not only are Xiao Xiao and Lei Lei cute, but they also have an important mission.

Seeing the three cows settling down, I no longer had to watch over them at night, and they began their new life together as mother and child.

“Immediately after the birth of the baby in June, the entire staff was working together to ensure the observation and protection of the giant panda mother and her cub.

The twin pandas have been growing well under the efforts of the Ueno Zoo staff. They are scheduled to be released to the public in January next year. I am looking forward to that day.

Shin Shin, who has started to “live together,” is said to be calmly taking care of the children, licking their bodies and feeding them (Photo: October 25, 2021) Photo: Tokyo Zoological Society
  • Reporting and writing Izumi Nakagawa Photo courtesy of (Tokyo Zoological Society

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