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Monday, August 23, 1999 Published at 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK


Panda triplet cub dies

The giant panda triplets are the first recorded in the world

The youngest of the world's first giant panda triplets has died.

Professor Zhang Hemin, a giant panda specialist at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Centre in southwest China's Sichuan Province, said the three-day-old cub died of a bladder disorder.

[ image: Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat and poaching]
Pandas are threatened by loss of habitat and poaching
Normally, giant pandas give birth to one or two cubs at a time but even then survival rates are low. About 60% die shortly after birth, either from disease and or by being accidentally crushed by the mother.

A worker found the abandoned cub, which weighed 137 grams at birth, but it was already dead. The two remaining cubs are in good health.

The middle cub, 138 grams at birth, is being looked after by its mother and the eldest cub, 156 grams, is being cared for by the staff at the centre. The three cubs were the first recorded instance of a triple birth.

[ image: Bai Yun cups her tiny cub in her paws]
Bai Yun cups her tiny cub in her paws
China used artificial insemination to produce the first giant panda cub born in captivity in 1963. The Chengdu centre, located at the Wolong Nature Reserve, was developed by the Chinese government and the World Wildlife Fund in 1980 and has successfully bred 24 giant pandas since 1991, of which 15 survived.

There are only about 1,000 giant pandas remaining in the world, either in captivity or in the wild. About 80% of these live in the mountains around the Sichuan Basin.

Another panda cub was born on Saturday, this time in San Diego zoo, US, making it the first live birth in the western hemisphere for almost a decade. The mother, Bai Yun, is on loan from China and was artificially inseminated.

Zoo officials say they are encouraged so far because Bai Yun, a first-time mother, seems to be showing a healthy maternal instinct.

[ image: Most pandas surviving in the wild are in China]
Most pandas surviving in the wild are in China

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