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U.S.-born panda gives birth in China

An American-born panda has reportedly given birth to a pair of cubs at a research center in southwest China.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An American-born panda has given birth to a pair of cubs in southwest China, the government said Thursday.

Hua Mei, who lives in a panda research center in Wolong, a region in Sichuan province, gave birth to the cubs on Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

One was male and was being kept in an incubator, Xinhua said. The second one has been with its mother, so the gender was unknown. Both are in good condition, Xinhua said.

Six-year-old Hua Mei was the first panda to be born overseas. She moved from the San Diego Zoo to Sichuan in February 2004. In May, she became pregnant through artificial insemination after natural mating attempts with two other pandas failed, Xinhua said.

Female pandas normally become sexually mature between 4 and 5 years old. They can get pregnant once a year and usually give birth to one or two cubs at a time.

Giant pandas are generally found in temperate forests in central China. Among the best recognized — but rarest — animals in the world, as few as 1,600 giant pandas survive in the mountain forests of central China. Another 120 are in Chinese breeding facilities and zoos.