The twin giant panda cubs born in Canada have been officially named Jia Panpan, meaning Canadian hope and Jia Yueyue, which translates as Canadian Joy. The zoo opened up voting to the public in February to help in finding names for the cute young cubs. A naming committee made up of representatives from the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto and the Toronto Zoo came up with a list of seven name combinations to vote on.
"Giant pandas are considered a national treasure in China, and I am confident everyone will embrace Canada's first giant panda cubs," Ming-Tat Cheung, president of the Chinese Cultural Centre, said in a news release. The giant panda cubs have been in a special maternity area since their birth and will make their debut to the public on 12 March.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: "Great to meet Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue - @TheTorontoZoo's new panda cubs!"
The cubs marked their 100th day in January and are now considered to have survived their infancy. Their mother, Er Shun, is on loan from China as part of a long-term conservation partnership. She and a male panda named Da Mao arrived in 2013.
Giant panda twin births are common, however the mother will only nurse one cub instinctively. Staff will "twin swap" cubs in intervals to ensure she cares for both as they develop. This gives both cubs an equal chance to bond with Er Shun and to nurse.
To determine the sex of the cubs, staff collected cheek-cell samples from the cubs with a small swab and drove them to Trent University, Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre. The forensic team at Trent used DNA sexing protocols developed by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics. The protocol involves sequencing a short fragment of the zinc finger protein gene (males have two different copies of this gene region, X/Y whereas females have two identical copies, X/X).
The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species. The latest census in 2015 put out by China's State Forestry Administration estimates that there are approximately 1,864 pandas living in the wild which is up by 268 animals when they were last surveyed in 2003.