China is celebrating the birth of twin panda sisters, born this week at a breeding center in Chengdu.
The cubs were conceived through artificial insemination, The Guardian reports. Their mom, 7-year-old Kelin, was inseminated in January and was in labor for two hours Monday before giving birth.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 24, 2015
Wu Kongju, chief administrator at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, told The Associated Press that the panda twins are in good health.
According to NBC News, the cubs are the first set of giant panda twins born this year.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) June 24, 2015
Giant pandas are considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and there are fewer than 1,900 pandas living in the wild. As Pandas International notes, the dwindling panda population and the bears’ low birth rate have made captive breeding programs essential to the animals’ continued survival.
Since it’s notoriously difficult to get pandas to mate naturally in captivity, artificial insemination is sometimes used. However, it's still a tricky process, which involves monitoring the female’s estrous cycle.
“Neither artificial insemination nor natural mating will guarantee a pregnancy, and veterinarians must simply wait (and wait….and wait) before they know for certain that a panda is truly pregnant," Pandas International states on its website.