Friday August 20, 1999

Giant Panda Makes History With Triplets

BEIJING (Reuters) - A giant panda has made history at a southwest China breeding center by giving birth to triplets in captivity, state media reported Friday.

The three baby pandas were born Wednesday at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center in Sichuan province, the People's Daily Overseas Edition said.

It was the first time in known history that a panda had given birth to triplets in captivity.

It quoted Professor Zhang Hemin, the director of the center, as saying that each weighed about 140 grams (4.9 ounces) and the mother and babies were in good condition.

The 15-year-old mother was artificially inseminated in April, the newspaper said. She had given birth to six cubs previously and four of them had survived.

China used artificial insemination to produce the first giant panda cub in captivity in 1963.

Pandas are notoriously fickle in captivity and fewer than 10 percent of the center's males and 24 percent of its females are able to mate by themselves, the Xinhua news agency said.

The center, set up in 1980, has used artificial insemination to produce 24 cubs since 1991, the agency said.

The giant panda is unique to China and only about 1,000 now live in the wild and 100 in captivity.

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