LIVING

Panda Twins Born At Smithsonian Zoo

08/24/2015 05:48 EDT | Updated 08/27/2015 09:59 EDT

Over the weekend, giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to twins at the Smithsonian National Zoo, and the world got a little bit cuter.

Thanks to the Smithsonian's live panda cam, animal lovers were able to watch the birth of the cubs in real time.

The zoo announced via Twitter a cub was born at 5:34 pm. on Saturday, Aug. 22, followed by a second cub at 10:07 pm.

Mei Xiang was still holding the first cub when she went into labour with the second.

Caring for twins can be a challenge for parents whether they're pandas or people. So, to help relieve the stress on Mei Xiang, the animal experts at the Smithsonian Zoo have been helping her by caring for one of the cubs when she takes care of the other.

Swapping is believed to help increase the odds of both cubs surviving, The Washington Post reports.

But swapping has its own problems too, which zookeepers discovered on Sunday night when Mei Xiang refused to swap cubs. According to the New York Times, the panda team was forced to care for the first born cub with nutritional supplements while the second cub spent more time with its mom.

The new, unnamed, pandas —who are said to be the size of a stick of butter — make Mei Xiang a mother of four. She gave birth to male panda Tai Shan in 2005 and female panda Bao Bao in 2013.

Per an agreement between China and the United States, Tai Shan was sent to China in 2010. Bao Bao and the new cubs are expected to follow suit after their fourth birthdays.

Throughout her stay at the National Zoo, Mei Xiang has had six false pregnancies and has lost two cubs, making the birth of these twins even more exciting, People magazine reports.

Over the next few days zookeepers will keep a close eye on Mei Xiang and her new cubs during which time the Panda House at the National Zoo will be closed. According to the Smithsonian's website, the panda habitat will reopen to the public when the cubs are four months old.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, giant pandas are still considered one of the rarest, most endangered bears in the world. As of 2014, it was estimated that there were only 1,864 giant pandas remaining in the wild.

Update: At 2 pm. on Aug. 26, the National Zoo confirmed via tweet that the smaller panda — Mei Xiang was refusing to care for — died. This is the third time in three years that Mei Xiang has lost a cub.

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