GUANGZHOU/YA'AN, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- A rare set of three panda cubs born at a south China zoo two weeks ago have become the world's first panda triplets to survive, zoo authorities said Tuesday.
The cubs were born within four hours of each other on July 29 at the Chime Long Safari Park in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, said the park's general manager Dong Guixin.
Their survival marks a new breakthrough in China's artificial breeding of the critically endangered species, he said.
The cubs weighed 90.5 grams, 83 grams and 124.4 grams at birth. They were artificially fed in an incubator because their mother, Ju Xiao, was weak after hours of labor, said Dong.
Panda experts from Sichuan Province were invited to Guangzhou to help nurse the cubs.
The cubs are the fourth set of triplets known to have been born in the last four decades, said Zhang Hemin, head of China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas based in Sichuan Province.
"None of the triplets born in the 1970s survived. Of the triplets born at the center in 1998, two survived. A third set of panda triplets were born last year but only one of them survived," he said.
Two weeks after their birth, Zhang said the cubs were in good health, weighing 230.6 grams, 245.3 grams and 333.4 grams.
Their mother Ju Xiao was impregnated in March with sperm from a panda in Guangzhou. Ju Xiao was born in Sichuan's Wolong in 2002 and was sent to Guangzhou on a research program in 2012. Under the program, the triplets will be returned to Sichuan when they are four years old.
Giant pandas are among the world's most endangered species. Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show about 1,600 pandas live in the wild, mostly in the mountains of Sichuan, while about 300 are held in captivity in zoos worldwide.
Most giant pandas in captivity are not good breeders. Only 24 percent of females in captivity give birth, posing a serious threat to the survival of the species.
Breeding pandas in the hot, humid south poses an even bigger challenge for zoologists. Last year, a cub was born at the Chime Long park, the first ever born in south China.