Panda cubs doing 'really well' at 10 weeks old

The two giant panda cubs born at the Toronto Zoo are now 10 weeks old and making good progress, thanks in part to a practice called “twin swapping.

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The zoo released new photos of the cubs Wednesday, showing their full black and white coats, and open and alert eyes.

The cubs have put on lots of weight -- growing from just 187 grams and 115 grams at birth, to 3 and 2.5 kilograms respectively. But even now, the zoo says the cubs are fragile.

“They are still at a very critical stage,” zoo spokesperson Jennifer Tracy told CTV News Channel Wednesday. “But they are doing really, really well.”

The pandas’ mother, Er Shun, has shown excellent maternal instincts, nursing both her cubs several times a day. Tracy explained that staff have been twin swapping, so that only one cub is with the mother at once. That’s to ensure that both cubs survive.

“In the wild, if a panda gives birth to twins, she will only care for and nurse one, because she doesn’t have the ability to care for two. So she will likely pick the stronger of the two,” she said.

So with the help of two panda experts who have arrived from China, zoo staff swap out the twins throughout the day, placing one with the mother and the other in an incubator to stay warm.

The only time the mother isn’t with a cub is when she is eating bamboo – which she has to eat a lot of, since she’s producing enough milk for two cubs.

The pandas are still in a “lockdown quarantine,” Tracy says, to minimize their exposure to anything that could compromise their survival.

The only people who have actually seen the cubs are the Toronto Zoo panda keepers, the two Chinese panda experts, and the zoo’s veterinary staff.

The pandas must remain in quarantine for at least 100 days, but officials say they’re hoping to let the public get their first look at them in March.

Mama bear Er Shun and a male named Da Mao arrived at the zoo in 2013, on loan from China.

The adults are slated to move to the Calgary Zoo in 2018, where they will remain for five years.



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