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Rare Panda Triplets Born in China [VIDEO]

Aug 14, 2014 02:27 PM EDT

A rare batch of panda triplets was recently born at China's Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou, Chinese officials announced Tuesday, demonstrating the success of the country's artificial breeding program.

Their mother, Ju Xiao, was artificially inseminated with sperm from a panda at a Guangzhou zoo in March, and she gave birth to the cubs July 29. Breeders delayed the announcement of this incredible event until they were sure that all three pandas would survive, according to The Associated Press via China News Service.

The triplets, which reportedly weigh between 8-12 ounces, mark the fourth panda triplet born via an artificial breeding program. Officials say it isn't clear how many of those triplets survived from such births.

There are about 1,600 giant pandas left in the wild, where they are critically endangered due to loss of habitat and low birth rates. More than 300 live in captivity, mostly in China's zoos and breeding programs, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) live in a few mountain ranges in central China, as well as in the Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. They once inhabited more lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing and other land development has now restricted pandas to the mountains, at elevations of 10,000 to 15,000 feet.

If the cubs reach adulthood, they will weigh up to 250 pounds (females rarely reach 220 pounds).

Experts aren't exactly sure what the lifespan of a giant panda is in the wild, but they are pretty confident that it's shorter compared to those living in captivity. Chinese scientists have reported zoo pandas as old as 35.

These black-and-white bears are known for gnawing on bamboo, which makes up the majority of their diet. They also feed on other grasses and the occasional small rodent.

The baby pandas, currently living in an incubator, are pink and hairless now but will eventually grow their iconic black and white coat, which scientists speculate is used as camouflage in their shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings.

[Credit: YouTube/Associated Press]

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