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Toronto Zoo panda Er Shun pregnant with twins

TORONTO – The Toronto Zoo may be welcoming a pair of twin baby pandas after veterinarians discovered not one, but two fetuses during ultrasounds conducted on Er Shun this week.

The zoo’s female giant panda, on loan from China until 2018 as part of a conservation breeding program, underwent two non-surgical artificial insemination procedures on May 14, 2015.

Staff used sperm collected from Da Mao, the other panda on loan, for the first procedure, and frozen sperm collected from two giant pandas in China for the second.

According to zoo officials, giant pandas have what is called delayed implantation and the gestation period is anywhere from 87 to 186 days from the date of insemination.

During regularly scheduled ultrasounds, staff found a fetal heartbeat on Sept. 25 and a second separate fetus was discovered on Sept. 29.

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“While this is a positive sign, the following three to four weeks are very critical,” the Toronto Zoo said. “Toronto Zoo staff are cautiously hopeful for healthy births within this time frame.”

Er Shun’s condition and health is being monitored daily by zoo staff as well as workers from the Wildlife Health Centre, Reproductive Programs and Wildlife Care.

Meanwhile, the ultrasounds have been conducted under the care of Dr. Cathy Gartley from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

Zoo officials said pandas only have one chance per year when they can breed and an attempt to impregnate Er Shun last year but was unsuccessful.

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