Giant panda Shin Shin gives birth to TWINS

A panda at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo has given birth to twins.

They were born in the early hours of Wednesday, the zoo said in a statement, adding that it had not yet confirmed the sex of the pair.

Zoo director Yutaka Fukuda said the twin birth was a first for the Ueno facility.

'When I heard the news that the second baby was born, I couldn't help but whoop,' he told reporters.

One of the cubs, weighing in at 124 grams, was placed in an incubator, zoo spokesperson Naoya Ohashi said in a press conference later. The other one's weight is unknown. 

The mother panda 'is in good health, and carefully looking after' the other baby, he added. 

When pandas have twins, they usually only raise one, 'so we will be making sure the mother panda will breastfeed one while we keep the other in the incubator,' Ohashi said.

Zookeepers will be swapping the babies so that both cubs experience natural feeding, he added. 

Shin Shin had been removed from public view since the zoo reopened from its pandemic closure on June 4, when she was showing signs of possibly being pregnant.  

There are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas left in the wild, mainly in bamboo forests in the mountains of China, according to environmental group WWF.

Around 600 more live in zoos and breeding centres around the world.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies giant pandas as 'vulnerable'.

The black and white mammals are immensely popular around the world and China loans them out as part of a 'panda diplomacy' programme to foster foreign ties.