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MEET CANADA'S FIRST

GIANT PANDA CUBS

FAQ



Question:

When was Er Shun inseminated?

Answer:

On May 14, 2015, Er Shun (the Toronto Zoo's female giant panda on loan from China as part of a conservation breeding program) underwent two non-surgical artificial insemination (AI) procedures. Zoo staff and a giant panda breeding expert from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, used sperm collected from Da Mao for the first procedure and frozen sperm collected from two giant pandas in China that were imported to Toronto Zoo in 2014, for the second AI.

Question:

When will we know the sex of the cubs?

Answer:

The sex of the cubs could be determined within a week. Staff will determine sex through examination.

Question:

Why did it take so long to confirm her pregnancy?

Answer:

Giant pandas have what is called delayed implantation and the gestation period is anywhere from 87 to 186 days from the date of insemination.

Since the AI procedure, Toronto Zoo staff from the Wildlife Health Centre, Reproductive Programs and Wildlife Care have been continuously monitoring Er Shun for any physiological and behavioral changes to determine if she is pregnant.

Question:

When did the Toronto Zoo discover the fetal heart beats?

Answer:

On Friday, September 25, 2015, a fetal heartbeat was seen on the ultrasound. Another ultrasound was conducted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 and, much to our surprise, we captured an image of a second panda fetus.

While this is a positive sign, Toronto Zoo staff are cautiously hopeful for healthy births.

Question:

When did Er Shun give birth?

Answer:

Er Shun gave birth on October 13, 2015. The first cub was born at 3:31 AM and the second at 3:44 AM.

Question:

What are giant pandas gestation periods?

Answer:

Approximately 45-50 days. Generally, we can only recognize approximately 20 days before giving birth.

Question:

Is Er Shun still on exhibit?

Answer:

Er Shun is currently in the maternity area of the Giant Panda House and cannot be viewed by the public.

Question:

Who is the father of the cubs?

Answer:

Fresh sperm was used from Toronto male panda Da Mao and frozen sperm collected from two giant pandas in China. The two other possible fathers are Qiubang and Xiongbang from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Question:

When will you know who the father is?

Answer:

DNA testing won’t be confirmed for several months of the cubs birth. This is due to permits for sending blood to a lab that specializes in panda DNA.

Question:

Did Da Mao and Er Shun breed naturally?

Answer:

There was an attempt, however it was unsuccessful.

Question:

Will these be the first panda cubs in Canada?

Answer:

Yes, this will be the first giant panda cub born in Canada.

Question:

Will the panda cubs remain in Canada?

Answer:

Giant panda cubs can stay with their mother for anywhere between 18 months – 24 months. Next steps beyond that time are undetermined.

Question:

Will the cubs eventually go back to China and if so when?

Answer:

This is too early to determine.

Question:

How often do pandas breed?

Answer:

Female pandas only ovulate once a year for 24-72 hours.

Question:

When will the cubs be on display to the public? (approx.)

Answer:

At approximately five months which is approximately mid-March 2016.

Question:

What is “twin swapping”?

Answer:

Giant panda twin births are common, however the mother will only nurse one cub instinctively. Staff will "twin swap" cubs in intervals to ensure she cares for both as they develop. This gives both cubs an equal chance to bond with mom and to nurse.

We commence "panda swapping". While one neonate is nursing, the other is maintained in an incubator and attended, and occasionally supplemented, by Toronto Zoo staff. Obviously, this requires a calm mum that tolerates the switching of the cubs.

The frequency of cub exchange is highly variable, but we would aim for every 2 hours. This approach offers an enormous advantage to the cubs in providing both maternal milk and social access, but requires a high level of monitoring and scrutiny of caretakers familiar with the species.

Question:

Why do they only care for one cub? In the wild, what do they do when they have twins?

Answer:

When two cubs are born in the wild the mother will usually only look after one of them, as she is unable to pick up both cubs simultaneously. In the wild, she also can’t provide nutrition for both.

In captivity keepers will help raise any twin cubs using a method called "twin swapping". One baby is left with the mother and the keepers switch the twins every few hours so each one gets care and milk directly from the mother.

While one cub is nursing, the other is kept in an incubator and attended to by Toronto Zoo staff and the Giant Panda Experts. Obviously, this requires a calm mom that tolerates the swapping of the cubs. This approach offers an enormous advantage to the cubs in providing both maternal milk and social access, but requires a high level of monitoring and scrutiny of caretakers familiar with this endangered species.

Question:

How long do staff need to “twin swap”?

Answer:

Approximately 3-4 months then both will go with the mom full time.

Question:

How often do they twin swap the cubs?

Answer:

On average between every 2 to 3 hours

Question:

How do they twin swap?

Answer:

The Keepers will use honey to distract Er Shun to do the cub swap.

Question:

Will there be a naming contest? Who gets to name the cubs?

Answer:

At this time this is undetermined, but we will keep you posted.

Question:

Is there a panda cam?

Answer:

Unfortunately, there is not a panda cam at this time in the maternity den. We will keep fans updated w/photos & video on Facebook & Twitter.

Question:

Who takes care of Er Shun and the cubs?

Answer:

Toronto Zoo Wildlife Care staff and two giant panda experts from Chengdu Breeding Centre, China, and supported by Toronto Zoo veterinarian staff.

Question:

Is Da Mao with Er Shun & the cubs?

Answer:

No, Da Mao is separated from Er Shun & the cubs. Visitors can still see him in the south exhibit.

Question:

How fast do panda cubs grow?

Answer:

They are approx. 10-12 cm at birth. The cubs will be weighed once a day.

Question:

How much do panda cubs eat a day? How many times do they eat a day?

Answer:

Panda cubs will eat 20% of their body weight which is approximately 20-30 millilitres over 11 daily feeds (2/3 ml per feed).

Ideally the mother looks after the cubs and feeds them but getting colostrum is key for the valuable antibodies it supplies. Er Shun will provide colostrum to the cubs over the first three days post birth, then her body will produce only milk.

Question:

When do the cubs start to grow fur & get their black & white markings?

Answer:

Panda cubs develop their black & white markings gradually over the first 25 days.

Question:

Is there a chance Er Shun will reject the cubs? Will they be hand raised?

Answer:

There is always that possibility however the panda specialists from Chengdu Breeding Centre have extensive experience and will do all that is possible to have Er Shun bond with her young.

Question:

Are giant pandas endangered? How many are left in the wild?

Answer:

From a 2015 census there are currently 1,864 giant pandas in the wild. In captivity there are approximately 300 and 67 reserves.

Question:

Is there a fund we can donate to for the giant pandas?

Answer:

To support our giant panda conservation please click here

Question:

Why do we have Giant Panda Experts?

Answer:

The Toronto Zoo has welcomed two Giant Panda Experts from Chengdu, China to assist Zoo staff with Er Shun’s pregnancy and delivery as they have extensive experience and knowledge on the rearing of Giant Panda cubs. Er Shun will continue to receive excellent medical care and diet that she has received since arriving at the Toronto Zoo. The Giant Panda Experts will be able to offer our Zoo staff guidance and direction during this very new, yet very exciting time.

Question:

Do you have any more information?

Answer:

We will continue to closely monitor her and will provide updates as they become available.