Giant panda Yuan Yuan and her newborn girl cub. (Taipei Zoo)
Giant panda Yuan Yuan and her newborn girl cub. (Taipei Zoo)

A female giant panda called Yuan Yuan has given birth to a cub after being artificially inseminated.

The giant panda was donated by China to Taiwan four years, the Taipei city government said.

Yuan Yuan and her partner Tuan Tuan have become star attractions in Taipei Zoo in the island's capital since their arrival from China in late 2008.

A natural pregnancy was hoped for, but they are rare in captivity. The zoo carried out three artificial insemination sessions in March and announced in June that Yuan Yuan showed signs of being pregnant.

It was said to be the seventh such attempt with Yuan Yuan in three years.

"Taipei mayor Hao Lung-bin is very pleased to learn that Yuan Yuan successfully gave birth to a cub at 8.05pm...The Taipei city will take good care of Yuan Yuan, Tuan Tuan and the newborn,'' an official statement said.

It was confirmed early on Sunday 7 July that the baby is a female weighing 183.4 grams, according to the United Evening News. It was found to be good health except for a minor injury to her right side.

The newborn has been put into an incubator and, according to a Taipei Zoo official, the next week will be a crucial period for determining whether the cub will survive -- infant mortality is common among baby giant pandas.

The island will be allowed to keep the cub as the panda couple is a gift, not a loan by China, Taipei officials have said.

Beijing usually only loans its pandas and any progeny must be sent to China.

China's decision to give Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan to Taiwan was a symbolic gesture to show warming ties between the former arch enemies, governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Fewer than 1,600 pandas remain in the wild, mainly in Sichuan province, with around 300 in captivity around the world.

Giant pandas are an endangered species because of the difficulty they have in reproducing. Female giant pandas go into heat only once a year. It is difficult for a male panda to naturally impregnate his female partner because of the small size of his penis. Also there is a high mortality rate amongst baby pandas.

Watch Yuan Yuan give birth in Taipei Zoo