Edmonton welcomes rare red panda twins

Two rare red panda twins will make their first public appearance on Thursday at Edmonton's Valley Zoo.

Two rare red panda twins made their first public appearance Thursday morning at Edmonton's Valley Zoo.

The twins were born May 26. Tai, the female twin, weighed 147 grams at birth while Pip, her brother, was 112 grams. Both have since more than doubled in weight.

Tai and Pip, twin red pandas born May 26 and seen for the first time Thursday at Edmonton's Valley Zoo.

The birth is considered a real rarity since only four red panda babies were born in North America in 2007.

All were born in Canada— two at the Valley Zoo, one in Calgary and one in Winnipeg.

"Every cub is crucial to the conservation breeding program," said John Dinon, the co-ordinator for the Red Panda Species Survival plan, an international breeding program.

"The [program] is thrilled with the births at the Valley Zoo and appreciates the zoo’s outstanding efforts to ensure the cubs’ survival."

An adult red panda, which visited Edmonton's Valley Zoo a few years ago. ((CBC))

It's estimated that there are fewer than 2,500 red pandas alive in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies red pandas as endangered.

The destruction of their natural habitat in China, India and Nepal is thought to be the major reason for their decline in the wild. It is not yet known how last month's earthquake in Chengdu, China, has affected the population.

The captive population of red pandas in North America is 45. Last year, another set of red panda twins was born at the Valley Zoo.

They were taken from their mother after concerns that the mother was licking them too much while grooming them. The hand-reared Pandas have since thrived, said zoo officials.

Red pandas are unique in their physical appearance in the bear world. In addition to resembling raccoons more than the giant panda, they also have claws that are partly retractable.