The probability for pandas to conceive twins is quite high, the percentage is about 50%. If they are born in the wild, the mother panda usually only chooses to raise one of them, and she’d give up the other one.
She must make such a choice, given that her milk is often enough for only one cub. Also, for the first few days after giving birth, the mother panda consumes a lot of energy on feeding her baby, sometimes without taking in nutrients for herself. The other cub, unfortunately, usually dies very quickly.
Panda’s colostrum is vital to young cubs, as it contains many vital antibodies, and is secreted only in the first three days after labor. Such colostrum is green, and the cubs can’t survive without it.
Under captivity, Chinese researchers have thought of a smart way in order to make all the cubs survive, that is, they put the cub abandoned by the mother panda in a nursery box, to be exchanged with the other one.
This is to ensure that both the cubs can have the colostrum. Such a method is executed consistently. Cubs are exchanged every few days or every week to be fed by the mother panda.
Of course, the most important step is to ensure that the pandas aren’t aware to be feeding the cub that has been abandoned. Pandas have an excellent sense of smell, and to convince the mother panda, researchers would mark both the cubs with the mother panda’s urine, so that when the mother panda thinks that it’s her baby, she starts holding and feeding it. It’s indeed a bit silly.
In China, we’ve already made a record in helping triplets to survive. It was not an easy task. Researchers spent years of hard work to overcome all the difficulties in breeding pandas.