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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 December 2006, 17:28 GMT
Giant panda gives birth to twins
Giant Panda Mei Mei eats while holding her two hairless cubs
Zoo officials have yet to confirm the sex of the cubs
A giant panda from China has given birth to twins at a zoo in Japan, raising the number of artificially-bred pandas born this year to a record 30.

The pandas were born on Saturday at Adventure World in Wakayama, 453km (283 miles) south-west of Tokyo.

The mother and the babies were said to be in good health, despite one weighing only 84 grams - considered to be premature, zoo officials said.

Mei Mei, 12, and her breeding partner Eimei, 14, are both on loan from China.

Births during the winter months are extremely rare for pandas in captive breeding programmes, officials said. The sex of the cubs is yet to be confirmed.

The giant panda is one of the world's rarest animals with an estimated 1,590 living in the wild in China, mostly in Sichuan and the western province of Shaanxi.

Another 180 animals have been bred in captivity.


SEE ALSO
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12 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Hope for future of giant panda
20 Jun 06 |  Science/Nature
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03 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
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17 Nov 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
24 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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