July 12, 2005Forget sharks: The summer of the panda is upon
us, and it's padding in on 20 pink paws. Last week alone five giant
panda cubs were born in captivity: one at Washington, D.C.'s National
Zoo and two pairs of twins (one of which is pictured above) at
China's Wolong panda reserve.
A newborn giant panda is about as big as a stick of butter and lacks the familiar black-and-white markings for its first month or so of life. Successful births in captivity are extremely rareand extremely prized by conservationists, given the species's dwindling numbers. About 1,600 giant pandas remain in the wild, plus about 160 living in zoos and breeding centers, according to the National Zoo.
Adding a circle-of-life pallor to the otherwise rosy news, China this week announced that the world's oldest known giant panda, a female named Mei Mei, had died at a zoo in the city of Guilin at age 36or about 108 in human years.
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