Professor Vijay Pithadia PhD
SNOW AROUND THE WORLD
These little guys are just too darn cute!
In the past few weeks, around 12,000 fans of Tiergarten Schönbrunn’s Giant Panda twins cast their online votes for names for the popular, wiggly duo.
Almost half of the votes were in favor of the Chinese name Fu Ban, which translates to “Happy Companion, Happy Half” and refers to the fact that there are twins. Fu Ban is the name being given to the male cub. Fu Feng, the name given to the female, was chosen by the Zoo. Feng stands for “phoenix”, which together with the dragon forms the imperial couple in Chinese mythology.
“Ever since our first young Panda was given the name Fu Long, we were keeping Fu Feng in mind for a female offspring,” explains the Zoo’s director, Dagmar Schratter.
The Panda twins were born to mom, Yang Yang, on August 7. They will be officially named on November 23, in a traditional name-giving ceremony. There will also be a big family celebration on November 27.
Photo Credits: Daniel Zupanc/ Tiergarten Schönbrunn
Aside from their un-official naming, the twins were also recently weighed. Keepers took advantage of Yang Yang being away in the outdoor enclosure. The female offspring tipped the scales at 4.26 kilograms, while the male weighed 3.97 kilograms. Schratter remarked, “This is a fantastic weight. Compared to the other young Pandas born in Schönbrunn, this is exactly average. Fu Long was a little bit lighter at that age, our second offspring Fu Hu and the third one Fu Bao were a bit heavier.”
After the weighing process, the twins were of course returned immediately to their tree hollow in the indoor enclosure. The Zoo will allow Yang Yang and the twins to decide when they will make a public appearance for visitors. Towards the end of the year, they will probably be big enough to climb out of their tree hollow.
The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) also known as “panda bear” or simply “panda, is a bear native to south central China. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the Giant Panda's diet is over 99% bamboo. Giant Pandas in the wild will occasionally eat other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion. In captivity, they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared food.
The Giant Panda is native to a few mountain ranges in central China, mainly in Sichuan province, but also in neighboring provinces (Shaanxi and Gansu). As a result of farming, deforestation, and other development, the Giant Panda has been driven out of the lowland areas where it once lived. It is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
Giant Pandas give birth to twins in about half of pregnancies, and generally, only one twin will survive. The mother will select the stronger of the cubs, and the weaker will die. Experts believe that the mother is unable to produce enough milk for two cubs, since she does not store fat. (The father has no part in helping raise the cub.)
When the cub is first born, it is pink, blind, and toothless, weighing only 90 to 130 grams (3.2 to 4.6 ounces). It nurses from its mother's breast six to 14 times a day for up to 30 minutes at a time. For three to four hours, the mother may leave the den to feed, which leaves the cub defenseless. One to two weeks after birth, the cub's skin turns gray where its hair will eventually become black. A slight pink color may appear on cub's fur, as a result of a chemical reaction between the fur and its mother's saliva. A month after birth, the color pattern of the cub's fur is fully developed. Its fur is very soft and coarsens with age.
The cub begins to crawl at 75 to 80 days of age. The cubs can eat small quantities of bamboo after six months, though mother's milk remains the primary food source for most of the first year. Giant Panda cubs weigh 45 kg (100 pounds) at one year, and live with their mothers until they are 18 months to two years old. The interval between births in the wild is generally two years.
The Zoo will do its best to keep Panda fans all over the world informed. At regular intervals, videos from the breeding box will be published on Schönbrunn Zoo’s website: https://www.zoovienna.at/ and other social media pages. There is also a public video screen in the Zoo that allows visitors to peek in on the new family.