December 20, 2007

Report: Panda Born at 1.8 Onces Healthy

BEIJING (AP) - A 16-month-old giant panda born at half the weight of most newborn pandas is growing into a normal, healthy animal in southwest China, state media reported Thursday.

Wushiyike, who weighed in at 1.8 ounces when he was born at the Chengdu Giant Panda Reproduction and Research Center now weighs 80 pounds, Xinhua News Agency cited the center's director Zhang Zhihe as saying.

"Wushiyike" means 1.8 ounces in Mandarin, the national language.

Giant pandas usually weigh more than 3.5 ounces at birth, and those born weighing less than 2.8 ounces usually do not survive, Zhang said.

"Its survival is almost a miracle," he was quoted as saying. Zhang said the panda's three meals a day are prepared by nutritionists and the animal spends his time sleeping, eating and playing.

The Chengdu panda center successfully raised a 2.2-ounce cub in 1993, Xinhua said. The report did not explain why Wushiyike was so underweight when he was born.

The giant panda is one of the world's rarest animals. About 1,590 pandas live in the wild in China, mostly in the western provinces of Sichuan and the Shaanxi, and the country has had some success breeding them in captivity, with more than 30 cubs born this year.