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Two rare baby red pandas born at Toronto Zoo

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The Toronto Zoo has announced the birth of two endangered red panda cubs.

The baby pandas were born on Thursday after their mother, Sakura, delivered them in a nest box in the red panda house at the zoo.

Wildlife care staff are giving the mother and her babies time to bond without disturbance but are keeping an eye on them via camera, the zoo said in a news release Monday.

“We are so excited to welcome these endangered red panda cubs to the Toronto Zoo family,” Toronto Zoo CEO Dolf DeJong said. “While newborns are always exciting, it is also an extremely vulnerable time, especially for this species. We will continue to provide updates about their progress to our community.”

Red pandas are an endangered species native to southwestern China and the eastern Himalayas. They are endangered due to illegal hunting and habitat loss. Experts estimate that there are between 2,500 and 10,000 of the animals in the wild.

The zoo has noted in their news release that red pandas are a "difficult-to-breed” species due to pre-and-post-partum challenges.

Research has shown a high percentage of early pregnancy loss for this species, with 40 per cent of pregnancies being lost prior to birth, the zoo said. Red pandas also have low rates of offspring survival both in the wild and in human care. Recent studies have shown that as few as 40 per cent of cubs reach their first birthday.

“Safeguards have been put in place to try and minimize risk factors for these new cubs, but it will be some time before their future is secure,” the zoo said. “During this fragile developmental stage, Sakura and her cubs will not be visible in the red panda habitat.”

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