In a happy turn of events for the quake-stricken Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, three pandas gave birth to four babies over the weekend. The center's future had looked anything but bright after the devastating earthquake in May, which toppled 14 panda houses, killed one panda, and killed or injured 100 people in the area. But all the emergency panda rations and psychological counseling seem to have paid off.
Though panda babies perennially rank among the cutest of all living things, glimpses on this Chinese news video suggests they do have an ugly-duckling stage. At one day of age, the pink squirmers bear an uncanny resemblance to naked mole rats. That said, it is heartwarming to watch a momma panda clasp one in its mouth and nestle the little nipper against her belly for a meal.
The three adults became mothers within 14 hours of each other: first, with twins, was 9-year-old Qiyuan (her name translates as Magic Luck), then 8-year-old Chenggong (Success), and 8-year-old Zhuzhu (Pearl), according to MSNBC. Pandas can live 30 years or more.
Giant pandas, which in the wild number only about 1,600, are notoriously difficult to breed. For years on end, researchers beat their heads against the wall at the sight of male pandas contentedly munching bamboo mere feet from an unattached female roommate.
Happily, recent advances, including the discovery that female pandas ovulate as infrequently as a few days every two or three years, have helped researchers boost panda birth rates in captivity - lending some hope that pandas will still be around to serve as mascots the next time the Olympics come to China.