Japanese-born giant panda has second pair of twins

TOKYO, Aug 12, 2010 (AFP) - A giant panda born and raised in western Japan has given birth to two cubs, her second twin delivery, a zoo official said Thursday.

Nine-year-old Rauhin gave birth to a female and a male cub Wednesday morning at the zoo in western Wakayama prefecture -- where she has spent her whole life -- after mating naturally with a panda brought from China.

In a picture released by Japanese animal theme park Adventure World and received through Jiji Press on August 12, 2010 shows the twin babies of the giant panda. AFP

Rauhin was the first Japanese-born panda to breed when she gave birth to twin cubs in 2008.

Her caretakers at the zoo conducted artificial insemination to improve Rauhin's chances of breeding two years ago, but the new babies were born as the result of natural mating with the Chinese male panda, the zoo said.

"The two pandas go together very well," Tadashi Ishikawa, a spokesman for Adventure World, told AFP.

"Giant pandas usually have a mating season only about three days a year, which makes it very difficult for them to breed," he said.

"But the environment here seems to be good for our pandas."

Captive giant pandas are known for their low sex drive, which is exacerbating falling numbers as their natural habitat in southwestern China is encroached on by development.

There are currently 10 giant pandas in Japan, eight of which are at Adventure World, but they all belong to China including Japanese-born Rauhin.

China is to send another pair to Tokyo's Ueno Zoo for a giant price tag of almost a million dollars a year, to be paid for the next decade.

The money will be spent on wild animal protection in China.

An extension of the lease can be negotiated, and the Tokyo zoo can keep babies born to the pair for the first two years, although China retains their ownership.

Ling Ling, the last panda owned by Japan, died of heart failure in 2008 at the age of 22 -- the equivalent of 70 human years.

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